Venezuela crisis: Maduro appears with soldiers following violent protests

Mr Maduro praised the army's loyalty 

Chelsea Ritschel
New York
Thursday 02 May 2019 23:25
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Maduro makes show of force with military

The Venezuelan president Nicolas Maduro has made a show of unity with his top military chiefs as the ruling socialists appear to have repulsed the latest US-backed attempts to remove the government.

Following two days of political unrest and violent protests, Mr Maduro visited an army base in Caracas, where he was surrounded by soldiers, including his defence minister and military operations chief.

During the visit, Mr Maduro called on the armed forces to defeat “any coup plotter” and, in a televised national address, announced the Venezuelan armed forces were “united, cohesive and subordinate to their constitutional mandate”.

The defiant message comes after opposition leader and self-appointed interim president Juan Guaido attempted to convince the military to join the fight in ousting Mr Maduro.

US officials including US special envoy for Venezuela Elliott Abrams have previously claimed the country’s military high command has discussed the removal of Mr Maduro with the Supreme Court and representatives of Mr Guaido.

“Almost everyone was involved with that, and so Maduro has to know that the high command is not truly loyal and they want a change,” Mr Abrams said on Wednesday.

However defence minister Vladimir Padrino stood by Mr Maduro during his address on Thursday: “Do not come to buy us with a dishonest offer, as if we do not have dignity,” he said. “Those who have fallen and sold their souls are no longer soldiers, they cannot be with us.”

Military operations chief Remigio Ceballos also appeared in the broadcast.

Venezuelan President Mr Maduro has refused to cede power

On Wednesday, the US-backed effort to remove Mr Maduro saw thousands take to the streets in protest, however, the president has refused to cede power to Mr Guaido, who is considered the legitimate head of state by more than 50 countries including the US and the European Union.

But Mr Maduro retains the support of powerful backers, including China, Russia and Cuba among others, and independent observers have reported that the last elections in Venezuela were fair and open.

On Thursday a court also issued an arrest warrant for fellow opposition leader Leopoldo Lopez, who violated house arrest earlier in the week, when he appeared alongside Mr Guaido.

The Spanish government said Mr Lopez, his wife and his daughter had entered the Spanish ambassador’s residence in Caracas of their own accord and it hoped the Venezuelan authorities would respect the inviolability of that residence.

The two days of clashes in Caracas have reportedly left hundreds injured and four dead, according to rights groups.

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The next step, according to US officials, will be implementing more sanctions on Venezuela’s government, however, US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said military action may also be used to resolve the crisis.

Russia said on Thursday it had agreed to continue talks on Venezuela with the United States, while China called for a political settlement via dialogue.

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