Maduro exhorts Venezuela military to fight 'any coup plotter'
Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro on Thursday called on the armed forces to oppose "any coup plotter" after a failed military uprising by forces supporting opposition leader Juan Guaido.
"Yes, we are in combat, keep morale high in this fight to disarm any traitor, any coup plotter," Maduro said at a televised event with the military high command in which he appeared surrounded by soldiers.
"No one can be afraid, it is the hour to defend our right to peace," he said at a ceremony in which, according to the government, 4,500 military personnel were present.
Maduro's call comes after an uprising on Tuesday by a group of military personnel under the leadership of Guaido, recognized by more than 50 countries as Venezuela's interim president.
The rebel soldiers gathered at a Caracas highway with Guaido, who urged Venezuela's armed forces to rise against Maduro.
That sparked two days of protests against the government in which two people were killed.
Human rights organizations and health services reported 46 people injured in Wednesday's clashes, including one person with a gunshot wound.
Jurubith Rausseo, 27, died at a clinic after being hit by a "bullet in the head during (a) demonstration," the non-governmental Venezuelan Observatory of Social Conflict said on Twitter, condemning her "murder."
One person was killed and dozens injured in Tuesday's clashes, human rights monitors said. The government said more than 150 people were arrested.
Guaido's push to dislodge Maduro was unsuccessful as the military leadership ratified their support for the government, and 25 rebel soldiers sought asylum at the Brazilian embassy.
Opposition politician Leopoldo Lopez, who made a dramatic appearance alongside Guaido on Tuesday after he was freed from house arrest, took refuge at the home of the Spanish ambassador.
"We've come to ratify our loyalty ... to the supreme commander of the armed forces, who is our only president, President Nicolas Maduro," said Defense Minister General Vladimir Padrino at Thursday morning's military event.
- Tear gas -
Tensions in Venezuela have soared since Guaido, who heads the national legislature, invoked the constitution to declare himself acting president on January 23, claiming Maduro's re-election last year was illegitimate.
Security forces fired tear gas and rubber bullets at stone-throwing protesters on both Tuesday and Wednesday.
UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres warned Venezuela's authorities not to use deadly force against demonstrators, while the US and Russia accused each other of making the crisis worse, evoking Cold War confrontations of the past.
Guaido rallied his supporters in the capital Caracas on Wednesday following the failure to spark a mass insurrection in the military the day before.
"We're going to remain in the streets until we achieve freedom for the Venezuelan people," Guaido told supporters.
He said staggered industrial action would begin on Thursday, leading to a general strike.
Padrino described Guaido's move as "child's play."
Pro-Maduro groups also marched through the capital on Wednesday in support of the socialist regime.
"The time for combat has arrived, the time has arrived to give an example to history and the world and to say that in Venezuela there is an armed forces ... united like never before, defeating coup attempts of traitors who sell themselves to the dollars from Washington," Maduro, who is backed by Russia and China, said in Thursday's address.
Venezuela has suffered five years of recession marked by shortages of basic necessities as well as failing public services, including water, electricity and transport.
© 2019 AFP