Juan Guaidó, Flanked by Soldiers, Calls for Military Uprising in Venezuela
Appearing alongside soldiers at a military base, the Venezuelan opposition leader Juan Guaidó called for mass antigovernment protests backed by the military, a direct challenge to the government that the military forces that have so far protected.
“Today, brave soldiers, brave patriots, brave men attached to the Constitution have followed our call,” Mr. Guaidó said in a video posted on social media, speaking from what he said was Francisco de Miranda Air Base, a military airport known as La Carlota in central Caracas.
He had called before for the military to rise up against the government of President Nicolás Maduro, but to do it flanked by men in uniform, at a base in the heart of the capital city, was a new step.
Mr. Guaidó claimed that this was a definitive moment in toppling the government, but it was not clear how many people — or how many soldiers — would heed him.
“We are counting on the people of Venezuela today,” he said. “The armed forces are clearly on the side of the people.”
Jorge Rodríguez, the government’s information minister, said on Twitter that government was “confronting and deactivating a small group of military traitors” that he said had taken over the base “to promote a coup.” He blamed the “coup-mongering ultraright,” which he said had pushed for a violent agenda for months in Venezuela.
Behind Mr. Guaidó, who has described himself since January as the country’s interim president, stood Leopoldo López, a member of his party who received a nearly 14-year sentence after staging protests in 2014 and has been held by the government under house arrest. Mr. López did not speak in the video but issued messages on Twitter saying that he had been released by soldiers.
“I was released by the military on the order of the Constitution and President Guaidó,” he wrote in his first Twitter posts since 2017. “Everyone mobilize. It’s time to conquer for freedom.”
The appearance of Mr. Guaidó and Mr. López, with the apparent support of some national guardsmen, prompted immediate rumors in Caracas that the armed forces could be shifting loyalties away from Mr. Maduro.
Mr. Guaidó, has tried since early this year to oust the president, whose re-election last year was widely seen as fraudulent, and more than 50 countries now consider him to be Venezuela’s legitimate leader.
A central pillar of his strategy has been luring the military to his side, and a number of officers have defected. But that has never amounted to enough for a full-scale uprising against the president.
In January, shortly before Mr. Guaidó declared himself president, national guard soldiers at a military base pledged allegiance to him at a base in Caracas. The government stormed the base and arrested some of the soldiers.
One of the soldiers later appeared in a Colombian border city seeking asylum, where he joined several thousands of rank-and-file soldiers who had defected.
This is a developing story. Please check back for updates.