Venezuela's crisis nears final phase, Guaido believes

Photo: EPA Venezuelan opposition leader Juan Guaido addresses supporters, Caracas, 1 May.

Rumours for a coup attempt and expectations for a military uprising to oust President Nicola Maduro were involved in the confused picture of Venezuela's crisis this week. Opposition leader Juan Guaido urged demonstrators to fill the streets for the final phase of so-called Operation Freedom.

“There's no turning back,” Guaido, who leads the opposition-controlled National Assembly said as he addressed thousands of supporters on the streets of Caracas on Wednesday. However, street clashes with the police left four protesters dead.

The army leadership remained loyal to Maduro, who accused Guaido of staging a coup and ordered his arrest. During a TV appearance, the Venezuelan president announced he had “defeated” an uprising of a group of soldiers backing opposition leader Juan Guaido, downplaying the effort as “putschist skirmishes”.

Guaido is recognised as Venezuela's legitimate head of state by the US, the European Union and many others, while Maduro is backed by countries including Russia, China and Cuba. That division put Venezuela at the heart of global geopolitical tensions. The US and Russia accused each other of interference in the OPEC-member nation's affairs. US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo told Fox Business Network that a US military action in Venezuela is possible. Pompeo also said Maduro had been expected to flee the country last Tuesday but Russia convinced him to stay, which the Kremlin denied. In a phone call on Wednesday, Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov told Pompeo that further “aggressive steps” in Venezuela would have grave consequences. The Pentagon appeared to downplay any active preparations to directly intervene, but acknowledged detailed contingency planning, news wires reported.

Amid US-Russia tensions, the EU on Tuesday called for “utmost restraint” in the Venezuela crisis. “We reiterate that there can only be a political, peaceful and democratic way out for the multiple crises the country is facing,” EU first diplomat Federica Mogherini said in a statement.

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