By: Paige Hubbard
Venezuelan opposition leader Juan Guaido on Tuesday (April 30) made his strongest call yet to the military to help him oust President Nicolas Maduro, and violence broke out at anti-government protests as the country hit a new crisis point after years of political and economic chaos.
Several dozen armed troops accompanying Guaido clashed with soldiers supporting Maduro at a rally outside the La Carlota air base in Caracas, but the incident fizzled out and did not appear to be part of an immediate attempt by the opposition to take power through military force.
Guaido, in Twitter posts, wrote that he had begun the “final phase” of his campaign to topple Maduro, calling on Venezuelans and the armed forces to back him ahead of May Day mass street protests planned for Wednesday.
Tens of thousands of people were marching in Caracas in support of Guaido on Tuesday, clashing with riot police along the main Francisco Fajardo thoroughfare. A National Guard armored car slammed into protesters who were throwing stones and hitting the vehicle.
Repeated opposition attempts to force Maduro, a socialist, from power through huge protests and calls on the military to act have so far failed.
Maduro, a former bus driver who took office after the death of political mentor President Hugo Chavez in 2013, said on Tuesday he had spoken with military leaders and that they had shown him “their total loyalty.”
The United States is among some 50 countries that recognize Guaido as Venezuela’s president, and has imposed sanctions to try to dislodge Maduro, who they say won re-election last year through fraud.