Clashes rock Venezuela as Guaido urges opposition uprising

Venezuela_Political_Crisis_08630 An anti-government protester walks near a bus that was set on fire by opponents of Venezuela's President Nicolas Maduro during clashes between rebel and loyalist soldiers in Caracas, Venezuela, Tuesday, April 30, 2019. Venezuelan opposition leader Juan Guaidó took to the streets with a small contingent of heavily armed troops early Tuesday in a bold and risky call for the military to rise up and oust Maduro. (AP Photo/Fernando Llano)
Venezuela_Political_Crisis_13008 Uprising soldiers stands outside La Carlota air base in Caracas, Venezuela, Tuesday, April 30, 2019. Venezuelan opposition leader Juan Guaido appeared in a video with a small contingent of armed soldiers and formerly detained opposition activist Leopoldo Lopez calling for Venezuelans to take to the streets to oust President Nicolas Maduro. (AP Photo/Ariana Cubillos)
Venezuela_Political_Crisis_64659 Opposition leader Leopoldo Lopez, center, is greeted by a supporter outside La Carlota air base in Caracas, Venezuela, Tuesday, April 30, 2019. Lopez, who had been under house arrest for leading an anti-government push in 2014, said he had been freed by soldiers and called for a military uprising. (AP Photo/Ariana Cubillos)
Venezuela_Political_Crisis_61760 Tear gas covers an empty highway next to La Carlota air base in Caracas, Venezuela, Tuesday, April 30, 2019. Venezuelan opposition leader Juan Guaido appeared in a video with a small contingent of armed soldiers and formerly detained opposition activist Leopoldo Lopez calling for Venezuelans to take to the streets to oust President Nicolas Maduro. (AP Photo/Ariana Cubillos)
Venezuela_Political_Crisis_44600 A military vehicle blocks an avenue next to La Carlota air base in Caracas, Venezuela, Tuesday, April 30, 2019. Venezuelan opposition leader Juan Guaido has called for a military uprising, in a video shot at the air base showing him surrounded by soldiers and accompanied by detained activist Leopoldo Lopez. (AP Photo/Ariana Cubillos)
APTOPIX_Venezuela_Political_Crisis_14478 An opponent to Venezuela's President Nicolas Maduro high fives a rebel soldier on a highway overpass outside La Carlota air base amid tear gas fired by loyalist soldiers inside the base in Caracas, Venezuela, Tuesday, April 30, 2019. Venezuelan opposition leader Juan Guaidó took to the streets in Caracas with activist Leopoldo Lopez and a small contingent of heavily armed troops early Tuesday in a bold and risky call for the military to rise up and oust socialist leader Nicolas Maduro. (AP Photo/Boris Vergara)
Venezuela_Political_Crisis_42693 Venezuela's opposition leader and self proclaimed president Juan Guaido talks to an Army officer outside La Carlota air base in Caracas, Venezuela, Tuesday, April 30, 2019. Guaido took to the streets with a small contingent of armed soldiers and detained activist Leopoldo Lopez calling for a military uprising. (AP Photo/Boris Vergara)
Colombia_Venezuela_Political_Crisis_23654 Defected Venezuelan Bolivarian National Guards and soldiers shout slogans against Venezuela's President Nicolas Maduro in La Parada near Cucuta, Colombia, Tuesday, April 30, 2019. Venezuelan opposition leader Juan Guaidó took to the streets in Caracas with activist Leopoldo Lopez and a small contingent of heavily armed troops early Tuesday in a bold and risky call for the military to rise up and oust socialist leader Nicolas Maduro. (AP Photo/Fernando Vergara)
Venezuela_Political_Crisis_59112 A man who was run over by a Bolivarian National Guard vehicle is aided by fellow anti-government protesters outside La Carlota airbase during an attempted military uprising in Caracas, Venezuela, Tuesday, April 30, 2019. Venezuelan opposition leader Juan Guaidó and jailed opposition leader Leopoldo Lopez took to the streets with a small contingent of armed troops early Tuesday in a call for the military to rise up and oust Maduro. (AP Photo/Boris Vergara)
Venezuela_Political_Crisis_97919 An opponent of Venezuela's President Nicolas Maduro raises a machete during an attempted military uprising outside the La Carlota airbase in Caracas, Venezuela, Tuesday, April 30, 2019. Venezuelan opposition leader Juan Guaidó and jailed opposition leader Leopoldo Lopez took to the streets with a small contingent of armed troops early Tuesday in a call for the military to rise up and oust Maduro. (AP Photo/Boris Vergara)
Venezuela_Political_Crisis_16889 Rebel troops who are rising up against the government of Venezuela's President Nicolas Maduro fire their weapons from an overpass outside La Carlota military airbase where loyal troops are located in Caracas, Venezuela, Tuesday, April 30, 2019. Venezuelan opposition leader Juan Guaidó took to the streets with activist Leopoldo Lopez and a small contingent of heavily armed troops early Tuesday in a bold and risky call for the military to rise up and oust socialist leader Nicolas Maduro. (AP Photo/Fernando Llano)
Venezuela_Political_Crisis_57135 A supporter of Venezuela's President Nicolas Maduro holds a poster of him outside Miraflores presidential palace during an attempted military uprising in Caracas, Venezuela, Tuesday, April 30, 2019. Venezuelan opposition leader Juan Guaidó and jailed opposition leader Leopoldo Lopez took to the streets with a small contingent of armed troops early Tuesday in a call for the military to rise up and oust Maduro. (AP Photo/Boris Vergara)
Colombia_Venezuela_Political_Crisis_30681 A deserted member of Venezuelan Bolivarian National Guard holds up a Venezuelan flag with the Spanish message: "Resistance," during a protest in La Parada near Cucuta, Colombia, Tuesday, April 30, 2019, on the border with Venezuela. Venezuelan opposition leader Juan Guaidó took to the streets with activist Leopoldo Lopez and a small contingent of heavily armed troops early Tuesday in a bold and risky call for the military to rise up and oust socialist leader Nicolas Maduro. (AP Photo/Fernando Vergara)
Venezuela_Political_Crisis_00039 Venezuela's self-proclaimed president Juan Guaido, holding megaphone, and opposition leader Leopoldo Lopez, top right, stand before supporters in Altamira Plaza in Caracas, Venezuela, Tuesday, April 30, 2019. Guaidó and Lopez took to the streets with a small contingent of heavily armed troops early Tuesday in a bold and risky call for the military to rise up and oust President Nicolas Maduro. (AP Photo/Fernando Llano)
Venezuela_Political_Crisis_24248 Opponents to Venezuela's President Nicolas Maduro run from loyalist Bolivarian National Guard troops firing tear gas at them outside La Carlota military airbase in Caracas, Venezuela, Tuesday, April 30, 2019. Venezuelan opposition leader Juan Guaidó took to the streets with activist Leopoldo Lopez and a small contingent of heavily armed troops early Tuesday in a bold and risky call for the military to rise up and oust socialist leader Nicolas Maduro. (AP Photo/Fernando Llano)
Venezuela_Political_Crisis_69664 Opponents to Venezuela's President Nicolas Maduro throw stones at soldiers loyal to Maduro inside La Carlota airbase in Caracas, Venezuela, Tuesday, April 30, 2019. Venezuelan opposition leader Juan Guaidó took to the streets with activist Leopoldo Lopez and a small contingent of heavily armed troops early Tuesday in a bold and risky call for the military to rise up and oust socialist leader Nicolas Maduro. (AP Photo/Fernando Llano)
APTOPIX_Venezuela_Political_Crisis_34480 Fireworks launched by opponents of Venezuela's President Nicolas Maduro land near Bolivarian National Guard armored vehicles loyal to Maduro, during an attempted military uprising in Caracas, Venezuela, Tuesday, April 30, 2019. Opposition leader Juan Guaido took to the streets with a small contingent of heavily armed troops in a call for the military to rise up. (AP Photo/Ariana Cubillos)
APTOPIX_Venezuela_Political_Crisis_25096 A Bolivarian National Guard water canon sprays opponents of Venezuela's President Nicolas Maduro during an attempted military uprising and anti-government protests in Caracas, Venezuela, Tuesday, April 30, 2019. Venezuelan opposition leader Juan Guaido and jailed opposition leader Leopoldo Lopez took to the streets with a small contingent of heavily armed troops early Tuesday in a bold and risky call for the military to rise up and oust Maduro. (AP Photo/Ariana Cubillos)
APTOPIX_Venezuela_Political_Crisis_69664 Opponents to Venezuela's President Nicolas Maduro throw stones at soldiers loyal to the president inside La Carlota airbase in Caracas, Venezuela, Tuesday, April 30, 2019. Venezuelan opposition leader Juan Guaidó took to the streets with activist Leopoldo Lopez and a small contingent of heavily armed troops early Tuesday in a bold and risky call for the military to rise up and oust socialist leader Nicolas Maduro. (AP Photo/Fernando Llano)
Venezuela_Political_Crisis_71689 A soldier stands on an avenue leading to La Carlota air base in Caracas, Venezuela, Tuesday, April 30, 2019. Venezuelan opposition leader Juan Guaido has called for a military uprising, in a video shot at the air base showing him surrounded by soldiers and accompanied by detained activist Leopoldo Lopez. (AP Photo/Ariana Cubillos)
Venezuela_Political_Crisis_65216 Military personnel loyal to Venezuela's President Nicolas Madura stand inside La Carlota air base in Caracas, Venezuela, Tuesday, April 30, 2019. Venezuelan opposition leader Juan Guaido appeared in a video with a small contingent of armed soldiers and formerly detained opposition activist Leopoldo Lopez calling for Venezuelans to take to the streets to oust Maduro. (AP Photo/Fernando Llano)
Venezuela_Political_Crisis_44675 An opponent to Venezuela's President Nicolas Maduro returns a tear gas canister in Caracas, Venezuela, Monday, April 29, 2019. Venezuelan opposition leader Juan Guaido appeared in a video with a small contingent of armed soldiers and formerly detained opposition activist Leopoldo Lopez calling for Venezuelans to take to the streets to oust Maduro. (AP Photo/Ariana Cubillos)
APTOPIX_Venezuela_Political_Crisis_72888 Venezuela's self-proclaimed president Juan Guaido greets supporters in Caracas, Venezuela, Tuesday, April 30, 2019. Guaido has taken to the streets with a small contingent of heavily armed troops early Tuesday in a bold and risky call for the military to rise up and oust President Nicolas Maduro. (AP Photo/Fernando Llano)
APTOPIX_Venezuela_Political_Crisis_04862 Opponents to Venezuela's President Nicolas Maduro confront loyalist Bolivarian National Guard troops firing tear gas at them, outside La Carlota military airbase in Caracas, Venezuela, Tuesday, April 30, 2019. Venezuelan opposition leader Juan Guaidó took to the streets with activist Leopoldo Lopez and a small contingent of heavily armed troops early Tuesday in a bold and risky call for the military to rise up and oust socialist leader Nicolas Maduro. (AP Photo/Fernando Llano)
Venezuela_Political_Crisis_57968 Venezuela's self-proclaimed president Juan Guaido speaks to supporters as he calls for the military to rise up and oust President Nicolas Maduro in Altamira Plaza in Caracas, Venezuela, Tuesday, April 30, 2019. Guaido and jailed opposition leader Leopoldo Lopez took to the streets with a small contingent of heavily armed troops early Tuesday in a bold and risky call for the military to rise up and oust Maduro. (AP Photo/Fernando Llano)
Venezuela_Political_Crisis_25096 A Bolivarian National Guard water canon sprays opponents of Venezuela's President Nicolas Maduro during an attempted military uprising and anti-government protests in Caracas, Venezuela, Tuesday, April 30, 2019. Venezuelan opposition leader Juan Guaido and jailed opposition leader Leopoldo Lopez took to the streets with a small contingent of heavily armed troops early Tuesday in a bold and risky call for the military to rise up and oust Maduro. (AP Photo/Ariana Cubillos)
Venezuela_Political_Crisis_64152 Venezuela's self-proclaimed president Juan Guaido speaks on his cell outside La Carlota airbase where loyalist soldiers are based in Caracas, Venezuela, Tuesday, April 30, 2019. Guaido and jailed opposition leader Leopoldo Lopez took to the streets with a small contingent of heavily armed rebel troops early Tuesday in a bold and risky call for the military to rise up and oust President Nicolas Maduro. (AP Photo/Boris Vergara)
APTOPIX_Venezuela_Political_Crisis_66999 An anti-government protester sits by ammunition being used by rebel troops rising up against the government of Venezuela's President Nicolas Maduro as they all take cover on an overpass outside La Carlota military airbase where the rebel soldiers confront loyal troops inside the base in Caracas, Venezuela, Tuesday, April 30, 2019. Venezuelan opposition leader Juan Guaidó and jailed opposition leader Leopoldo Lopez took to the streets with a small contingent of heavily armed troops early Tuesday in a bold and risky call for the military to rise up and oust Maduro. (AP Photo/Boris Vergara)
Venezuela_Political_Crisis_20958 A woman cheers on rebel soldiers who are rising up against the government of Venezuela's President Nicolas Maduro outside La Carlota military airbase where loyal troops are located in Caracas, Venezuela, Tuesday, April 30, 2019. Venezuelan opposition leader Juan Guaidó took to the streets with activist Leopoldo Lopez and a small contingent of heavily armed troops early Tuesday in a bold and risky call for the military to rise up and oust socialist leader Nicolas Maduro. (AP Photo/Fernando Llano)
Venezuela_Political_Crisis_68926 Paramedics aid an anti-government protester who was injured during clashes with security forces loyal to President Nicolas Maduro, during an attempted military uprising in Caracas, Venezuela, Tuesday, April 30, 2019. Venezuelan opposition leader Juan Guaidó and jailed opposition leader Leopoldo Lopez took to the streets with a small contingent of armed troops early Tuesday in a call for the military to rise up and oust Maduro. (AP Photo/Boris Vergara)
Venezuela_Political_Crisis_09974 Rebel troops who are rising up against the government of Venezuela's President Nicolas Maduro fire their weapons from an overpass outside La Carlota military airbase where loyal troops are located, as members of the press and civilians take cover in Caracas, Venezuela, Tuesday, April 30, 2019. Venezuelan opposition leader Juan Guaidó and jailed opposition leader Leopoldo Lopez took to the streets with a small contingent of heavily armed troops early Tuesday in a bold and risky call for the military to rise up and oust Maduro. (AP Photo/Boris Vergara)
Venezuela_Political_Crisis_07859 Opponents to Venezuela's President Nicolas Maduro, behind and left, scuffle with a Bolivarian National Guard officer who is loyal to President Nicolas Maduro during clashes with rebel soldiers and anti-government protesters outside La Carlota military airbase in Caracas, Venezuela, Tuesday, April 30, 2019. Venezuelan opposition leader Juan Guaidó and jailed opposition leader Leopoldo Lopez took to the streets with a small contingent of heavily armed troops early Tuesday in a bold and risky call for the military to rise up and oust Maduro. (AP Photo/Boris Vergara)
APTOPIX_Venezuela_Political_Crisis_08630 An anti-government protester walks near a bus that was set on fire by opponents of Venezuela's President Nicolas Maduro during clashes between rebel and loyalist soldiers in Caracas, Venezuela, Tuesday, April 30, 2019. Venezuelan opposition leader Juan Guaidó took to the streets with a small contingent of heavily armed troops early Tuesday in a bold and risky call for the military to rise up and oust Maduro. (AP Photo/Fernando Llano)
Venezuela_Political_Crisis_32210 An injured man is aided by fellow anti-government protesters during clashes with security forces loyal to President Nicolas Maduro, during an attempted military uprising in Caracas, Venezuela, Tuesday, April 30, 2019. Venezuelan opposition leader Juan Guaidó and jailed opposition leader Leopoldo Lopez took to the streets with a small contingent of armed troops early Tuesday in a call for the military to rise up and oust Maduro. (AP Photo/Boris Vergara)
Venezuela_Political_Crisis_81473 Venezuela's self-proclaimed president Juan Guaido greets supporters during an attempted military uprising in Caracas, Venezuela, Tuesday, April 30, 2019. Guaido has taken to the streets with a small contingent of heavily armed troops early Tuesday in a bold and risky call for the military to rise up and oust President Nicolas Maduro. (AP Photo/Fernando Llano)
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CARACAS, Venezuela (AP) — Opposition leader Juan Guaidó took a bold step to revive his movement to seize power in Venezuela, taking to the streets Tuesday to call for a military uprising that drew quick support from the Trump administration and fierce resistance from forces loyal to socialist Nicolas Maduro.

The violent street battles that erupted in parts of Caracas were the most serious challenge yet to Maduro’s rule. And while the rebellion seemed to have garnered only limited military support, at least one high-ranking official announced he was breaking with Maduro, in a setback for the embattled president.

In a Tuesday night appearance on national television, Maduro declared that the opposition had attempted to impose an “illegitimate government” with the support of the United States and neighboring Colombia. He said Venezuela had been a victim of “aggression of all kinds.”

Meanwhile, Guaidó sought to keep the momentum going at the end of the day by releasing his own video message in which he pressed Venezuelans to take to the streets again on Wednesday.

The competing quests to solidify a hold on power capped a dramatic day that included a tense moment when several armored vehicles plowed into a group of anti-government demonstrators trying to storm the capital’s air base, hitting at least two protesters.

U.S. National Security Adviser John Bolton said the Trump administration was waiting for three key officials, including Maduro’s defense minister and head of the supreme court, to act on what he said were private pledges to remove Maduro. He did not provide details.

The stunning events began early Tuesday when Guaidó, flanked by a few dozen national guardsmen and some armored crowd-control vehicles, released the three-minute video shot near the Carlota air base.

In a surprise, Leopoldo Lopez, Guaido’s political mentor and the nation’s most-prominent opposition activist, stood alongside him. Detained in 2014 for leading a previous round of anti-government unrest, Lopez said he had been released from house arrest by security forces adhering to an order from Guaidó.

“I want to tell the Venezuelan people: This is the moment to take to the streets and accompany these patriotic soldiers,” Lopez declared.

As the two opposition leaders coordinated actions from a highway overpass, troops loyal to Maduro fired tear gas from inside the adjacent air base.

A crowd that quickly swelled to a few thousand scurried for cover, reappearing later with Guaidó at a plaza a few blocks from the disturbances. A smaller group of masked youths stayed behind on the highway, lobbing rocks and Molotov cocktails toward the air base and setting a government bus on fire.

Amid the mayhem, several armored utility vehicles careened over a berm and drove at full speed into the crowd. Two demonstrators, lying on the ground with their heads and legs bloodied, were rushed away on a motorcycle as the vehicles sped away dodging fireballs thrown by the demonstrators.

“It’s now or never,” said one of the young rebellious soldiers, his face covered in the blue bandanna worn by the few dozen insurgent soldiers.

The head of a medical center near the site of the street battles said doctors were treating 50 people, about half of them with injuries suffered from rubber bullets. At least one person had been shot with live ammunition. Venezuelan human rights group Provea said a 24-year-old man was shot and killed during an anti-government protest in the city of La Victoria.

Later Tuesday, Lopez and his family sought refuge in the Chilean ambassador’s residence in Caracas, where another political ally has been holed up for over a year. They later moved to the Spanish embassy. There were also reports that 25 troops who had been with Guaidó fled to Brazil’s diplomatic mission.

Amid the confusion, Maduro tried to project an image of strength, saying he had spoken to several regional military commanders who reaffirmed their loyalty.

“Nerves of steel!” he said in a message posted on Twitter.

Flanked by top military commanders, Defense Minister Vladimir Padrino López condemned Guaido’s move as a “terrorist” act and “coup attempt” that was bound to fail like past uprisings.

“Those who try to take Miraflores with violence will be met with violence,” he said on national television, referring to the presidential palace where hundreds of government supporters, some of them brandishing firearms, had gathered in response to a call to defend Maduro.

Meanwhile, Foreign Minister Jorge Arreaza said the “right-wing extremists” would not succeed in fracturing the armed forces, which have largely stood with the socialist leader throughout the months of turmoil.

“Since 2002, we’ve seen the same pattern,” Arreaza told The Associated Press. “They call for violence, a coup, and send people into the streets so that there are confrontations and deaths. And then from the blood they try to construct a narrative.”

But in a possible sign that Maduro’s inner circle could be fracturing, the head of Venezuela’s secret police penned a letter breaking ranks with the embattled leader.

Manuel Ricardo Cristopher Figuera, the head of Venezuela’s feared SEBIN intelligence agency, wrote a letter to the Venezuelan people saying that while he has always been loyal to Maduro it is now time to “rebuild the country.”

He lamented that corruption has become so rampant that “many high-ranking public servants practice it like a sport.”

“The hour has arrived for us to look for other ways of doing politics,” he wrote. “To build the homeland our children and grandchildren deserve.”

The letter circulating on social media was confirmed by a senior U.S. official who spoke on condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to divulge details of the case. He said the general’s wife is currently outside the country.

Protesters erected barricades of debris at several downtown intersections about 10 blocks from the presidential palace, but police in riot gear moved in quickly to clear the roads. Most shops and businesses were closed and the streets of the capital unusually quiet, as people huddled at home to await the outcome of the day’s drama.

Guaidó said he called for the uprising to restore Venezuela’s constitutional order, broken when Maduro was sworn in earlier this year for a second term following elections boycotted by the opposition and considered illegitimate by dozens of countries.

He said that in the coming hours he would release a list of top commanders supporting the uprising.

“The armed forces have taken the right decision,” said Guaidó. “With the support of the Venezuelan people and the backing of our constitution they are on the right side of history.”

Anti-government demonstrators gathered in several other cities, although there were no reports that Guaidó’s supporters had taken control of any military installations.

As events unfolded, governments from around the world expressed support for Guaidó while reiterating calls to avoid violent confrontation.

Bolton declined to discuss possible actions – military or otherwise – but reiterated that “all options” are on the table as President Donald J. Trump monitors developments “minute by minute.”

He said he was waiting for key power brokers including Padrino, Supreme Court chief justice Maikel Moreno and head of the presidential guard to make good on their commitments to achieve the peaceful transfer of power to Guaidó.

“All agreed that Maduro had to go. They need to be able to act this afternoon, or this evening, to help bring other military forces to the side of the interim president,” Bolton said. “If this effort fails, (Venezuela) will sink into a dictatorship from which there are very few possible alternatives.”

Elsewhere, Spain’s socialist caretaker government urged restraint, while the governments of Cuba and Bolivia reiterated their support for Maduro.

___

Joshua Goodman in Cucuta, Colombia, contributed to this report.

Copyright © 2019 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, written or redistributed.

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