Venezuelan opposition leader Juan Guaidó claimed on Tuesday to be staging a military-backed challenge to President Nicolás Maduro.
“At this moment, I am with the main military units of our armed forces, starting the final phase of Operation Liberty,” Guaidó said in a dawn recording at a base in Caracas, telling viewers that the “end of usurpation” had arrived.
His remarks began a day of conflict in the Venezuelan capital, with thousands taking to the streets and forces loyal to Maduro appearing to respond violently.
Cover image: UESLEI MARCELINO/Reuters
Guaidó’s call saw people congregate at the La Carlota military base in the Caracas district of Altamira, but they were soon met by tear gas canisters and troops who appeared to be loyal to Maduro.
Carlos Garcia Rawlins/AP
Guaidó later left the base and went to the nearby Plaza Altamira, where he led supporters in singing the national anthem. An estimated 5,000 had arrived by late morning, along with soldiers wearing blue armbands to show their support for Guaidó.
Carlos Garcia Rawlins/Reuters
Maduro has said that the military remains loyal to him.
“Steel nerves,” he wrote in a tweet. “I have talked to commanders in all the regions of the country and they’ve manifested their total loyalty to the People, the Constitution, and the Homeland.”
At least six people were shot in the morning, an official with the Caracas Metropolitan Clinic told The Washington Post. Footage shared from the capital city appeared to show an armored vehicle running over civilians.
The events mark the most serious challenge to Maduro since Guaidó first invoked constitutional powers in January. The opposition leader, elected as leader of the National Assembly, has claimed that Maduro is illegitimate and that he is now the nation’s interim leader.
In a series of comments on Tuesday, U.S. officials said they supported the uprising. “America will stand with you until freedom & democracy are restored. Vayan con dios!” Vice President Mike Pence wrote on Twitter.