Venezuela’s opposition leader Juan Guaido claimed on Tuesday that troops had joined his campaign to oust President Nicolas Maduro and armed forces clashed at a protest outside the Carcass airbase as the country hit a new crisis point.
An apparently carefully planned attempt by Guaido to demonstrate growing military support disintegrated into rioting as palls of black smoke rose over eastern Caracas.
The government said it was “deactivating” an attempted coup by a small group of “treacherous” soldiers.
Guaido appeared in a video with uniformed men, saying he had military support. He called for more members of the military to help him end President Maduro’s ‘appropriation” of power.
Guaido claimed the move was the “beginning of the end” of Maduro’s regime, and there was “no turning back”.
Thousands of opposition supporters flocked onto a highway near the base. But confusion reigned as they were met with gunfire and teargas fired by soldiers at the base.
Later troops in riot gear, backed by armoured vehicles and water tankers, lined up against the demonstrators on a highway wreathed in teargas.
Some of the protesters amid the confusion chanted that “Today is the day Maduro resigns. Today is the day all the country’s drug dealers resign. Today we have a Venezuela. Today we have a nation”.
Opposition leader Leopoldo Lopez said: “I had been freed by members of the military who had declared their loyalty to Guaido”.
(With agency inputs)