Since leftist Hugo Chávez became president in 1999 and began a sweeping effort to transform Venezuela, there have been several attempts by security forces to remove him and his chosen successor, Nicolás Maduro, from power. All have failed — at least until now.
A few have been small-scale efforts — such as a June 2017 incident in which a former police officer tossed grenades from a helicopter at government buildings and a bizarre event in August 2018 in which two drones carrying explosives detonated near a platform where Maduro was giving a speech. Others were more complex.
Maduro has been wary of a military uprising as his oil-rich country has slid into economic chaos. Both he and Chávez have tried to control the powerful armed forces by elevating hundreds of officers to the rank of general and providing senior officers with lucrative perks, including roles in running military businesses. Surveillance of officers is also said to be intense.
Juan Guaidó, who is recognized as Venezuela’s interim president by more than 50 countries, declared Tuesday that he was with “the main military units of our armed forces” at a base in Caracas, and he urged citizens to take to the streets to topple the Maduro government.
Here is a summary of some past military-backed efforts to overthrow Chávez and Maduro:
JAN. 21, 2019: A group of national guard members captured a police captain and then stole weapons from another police station in a poor neighborhood of Caracas, setting off violent protests. They acted after other guard members appeared in videos on social media saying they wouldn’t recognize Maduro’s reelection, and called on Venezuelans to take to the streets. Authorities arrested 27 guardsmen as the rebellion failed.
MAY 2018: Senior Venezuelan officers planned to overthrow Maduro in a plot code-named Operation Constitution, according to an account of the secret operation published by Bloomberg News. The operation also aimed to derail the May 20 presidential election. But in mid-May, authorities foiled the plot, arresting dozens of members of the armed forces and some civilians, according to the news agency. Maduro won the election, which was widely criticized as unfair.
AUG. 6, 2017: About 20 men stormed a military base near the northwestern city of Valencia, stealing weapons and engaging in a firefight with soldiers. Meanwhile, in a video released on social media, men in military uniforms announced an uprising against the “murderous tyranny” of Maduro. Two men were killed in the assault, which did not spark any further rebellion.
APRIL 11, 2002: Senior military officers forced Chávez from power after a march on the presidential palace turned bloody. But the military, under international and domestic pressure, reversed itself four days later and restored Chávez to the presidency.