(UPI) — Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro is digging in against what he calls an attempted coup to remove him from power, as opposition leader Juan Guaido calls for yet more action in the streets of Caracas.
Guaido, recognized by a number of nations as the interim president, called for supporters to again rally on Wednesday in the Venezuelan capital — a day after he declared the start of “Operation Liberty,” which he said is the beginning of the final phase of Maduro’s rule.
“Over the expanse and length of Venezuela, we will be in the streets,” Guaido said. “We will see you all in the streets. That is our territory.”
In a nationally televised address late Tuesday, a defiant Maduro blamed the United States and others for trying to remove him.
“We have been facing various forms of coup d’etat, due to the obsessive effort of the Venezuelan right, the Colombian oligarchy and the U.S. empire,” Maduro said.
Maduro officials said earlier Tuesday they’d put down the attempted “coup,” but Guiado said in a video message to supporters Maduro no longer has the support of Venezuela’s armed forces. He’s also called for more demonstrations Wednesday to get rid of Maduro.
Maduro denied reports that he planned to flee to Cuba but was talked out of it by Russian officials. U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, though, said Maduro was only moments from abandoning Venezuela on Tuesday.
“We’ve watched throughout the day, it’s been a long time since anyone’s seen Maduro,” Pompeo told CNN. “He had an airplane on the tarmac, he was ready to leave this morning, [and] as we understand it the Russians indicated he should stay.”
Russia military spokeswoman Maria Zakharova blamed the United States for escalating tensions.
“Numerous political actors in Washington do not see the harmfulness of this path toward which they push this whole story,” Zakharova said in a report by state-run news agency TASS. “It is strange, because it is obvious to everyone now. If Washington continues its meddling attempts in internal affairs, it may cause a collapse of the situation.”
Also Tuesday, the head of Venezuela’s secret police, Manuel Ricardo Cristopher Figuera, ended his support for the leader, saying the “time has come to seek new ways of doing politics” and “rebuild the country.”
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