Venezuelan opposition leader Juan Guaido urged the military and civilians to attend protests on Wednesday against acting President Nicolas Maduro, hours after the self-declared president encouraged the military to rise up against the government.
"I am calling on the armed forces to continue their march in 'Operation Freedom.' Tomorrow, May 1, we will continue ... across all of Venezuela, we will be on the streets," Guaido said in a second video message released on social media late Tuesday.
In a state television broadcast, Maduro denounced Guaido's "stubborn" plan to overthrow his government and "impose an illegitimate government."
"Never in the history of Venezuela has there been an uprising caused by the obsessive, evil efforts of a far-right opposition group, the Colombian oligarchy and US imperialism," he said.
In an attempt to project an image of strength, Maduro said he had spoken to several regional military commanders who had reaffirmed their loyalty.
"Nerves of steel!" he said in a message posted on Twitter.
Maduro also said he had reinstated Gustavo Gonzalez Lopez as his secret police chief, but provided no details on why the incumbent, Manuel Ricardo Cristopher Figuera, had left the post.
A letter in which Figuera reportedly denounced Venezuela's decline and wrote about the need to "seek new ways of doing politics" had been circulating on social media before Maduro's address. The Associated Press reported that an anonymous US official had confirmed the letter's authenticity.
Guaido's latest message came almost a day after he published a video in which he appeared alongside soldiers and opposition politician Leopoldo Lopez, who had been under house arrest, to call on the military to oust Maduro.
Clashes ensued between opposition supporters and security forces in and around Caracas throughout the rest of the day. Sixty-nine people were injured in the Chacao area alone, Mayor Gustavo Duque said.
Francisco Marquez, a member of Guaido's diplomatic team in the United States, told DW that Maduro's forces had initiated the violence.
"What the Venezuelan people want is a peaceful transition of power and that's what we're looking for now, and that's what's meant to happen today. None of the violent clashes occurred from our side," he said in Washington.
Flanked by top military commanders, Defense Minister Vladimir Padrino Lopez later said government troops had successfully stopped an "insignificant" coup attempt. He condemned Guaido's move as a "terrorist" act and "coup attempt" that was bound to fail. Some 80% of soldiers who had taken part in had withdrawn their support for it, he added.
Guaido declared himself interim president in January after he dismissed Maduro's disputed reelection in 2018 as illegitimate. More than 50 countries, including the United States and Germany, have recognized Guaido as interim president.
amp/cmk (AFP, AP, Reuters, EFE)