All military commanders of Venezuela are loyal to the government, President Nicolas Maduro assured amid an attempted military coup, declared by US-backed opposition leader Juan Guaido.
Maduro, who is considered an ‘usurper’ by his challenger, said that he had spoken to all senior military officers of the country’s armed forces, who assured him of their “total loyalty to the constitution and to the homeland.” He called on his supporters to mobilize in the face of the latest attempt by Guaido to seize power in Caracas.
Venezuelan Defense Minister Vladimir Padrino Lopez said that the national armed forces remained loyal to the government while adding that the those behind the “acts of violence” were partially defeated.
Earlier on Tuesday, Guaido posted a video filmed near an air base in Caracas, calling for decisive action against the Maduro government. Standing behind him were several people in military uniforms – apparently meant to be a living testament to the support of the army. The opposition leader has been struggling to win over the troops for months since declaring himself ‘interim president’ in January.
The Venezuelan government called the uniform-clad men “a small group of traitors” and promised to deal with the “attempted military coup.” The defense minister dismissed the defectors.
In the meantime Venezuelan opposition figure Leopoldo Lopez has sought refuge in Chile’s embassy in Caracas, while at least 25 pro-Juan Guaido troops asked Brazil for refuge. The news all but points to the failure of the US-backed coup attempt.
Lopez had been under house arrest since 2017, but was seen at the side of Guaido – who had declared himself “interim president” of Venezuela in January. As supporters of the US-backed opposition sought to take control of Caracas by force at least 50 people were injured and 11 arrested during the unrest on Tuesday.
Meanwhile, at least 25 armed Guaido supporters have sought refuge in the Brazilian embassy in Caracas, Brazilian media reported. There were no officers among them, according to reports.
The flight of Lopez and his family suggests that Guaido’s effort to win over the Venezuelan military and police – with verbal support from Washington – may have failed, as the majority of the security forces apparently remained loyal to President Nicolas Maduro.
Lopez founded Voluntad Popular, the party Guaido represents in the National Assembly. The legislative body was last elected in 2015, and Maduro’s government considers it defunct following the 2017 Constituent Assembly election.
During the 2014 protests in Venezuela, Lopez was arrested and charged with arson, conspiracy, murder and terrorism. Some of the charges were dropped, but he was found guilty of inciting violence in September 2015 and sentenced to almost 14 years in prison. He was placed under house arrest in July 2017, until he reappeared in public on Tuesday morning.