Sat, May 04, 2019 - Page 7 News List

Maduro exhorts military to fight any coup plotter

AFP, CARACAS

Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro on Thursday called on the armed forces to oppose “any coup plotter” after a military uprising in support of Venezuelan National Assembly President Juan Guaido fizzled out and subsequent street clashes left four protesters dead.

On Tuesday, Guaido — who has been recognized by more than 50 nations as interim president — urged the armed forces to rise up against embattled Maduro.

A small group heeded the call, but the movement failed to ignite — the military leadership ratified their support for the government and Maduro is standing his ground despite international pressure.

“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, at which he was surrounded by troops.

“No one can be afraid — it is the hour to defend our right to peace,” he said at a ceremony attended by 4,500 military personnel, according to the government.

“We’ve come to ratify our loyalty ... to the supreme commander of the armed forces, who is our only president, President Nicolas Maduro,” Venezuelan Minister of Defense General Vladimir Padrino said.

The failed uprising sparked two days of protests against the government in which four people were killed, including two teenagers who died of their injuries on Thursday.

Meanwhile, the Venezuelan Supreme Court ordered the rearrest of influential opposition politician Leopoldo Lopez — who made a dramatic appearance alongside Guaido on Tuesday after he was freed from house arrest.

Lopez has since taken refuge at the Spanish embassy.

The 48-year-old was a prominent opposition leader in 2014 when he was imprisoned after calling for protests against Maduro. He was transferred to house arrest in 2017.

In Washington, US President Donald Trump offered prayers at a White House service for “the people of Venezuela in their righteous struggle for freedom.”

“The brutal repression of the Venezuelan people must end, and it must end soon,” Trump said.

“We have lots of options and some of them are very tough options,” he said in an interview with Fox News.

“There’s always a tipping point” for military intervention, Trump said, adding: “I’d rather not do that.”

Opposition lawmakers and family members on Thursday said that two teenage protesters had succumbed to injuries sustained in the anti-government protests.

Yoifre Hernandez, 14, was hit by gunfire during Wednesday’s clashes in Caracas, while 16-year-old Yosner Graterol suffered a gunshot wound during unrest in the northern town of La Victoria on Tuesday, lawmakers and relatives said.

Jurubith Rausseo, 27, died on Wednesday after being shot in the head, the non-governmental Venezuelan Observatory of Social Conflict said on Twitter.

Another person was killed in the northern state of Aragua on Tuesday.

Human rights organizations and health services reported that dozens of people were hurt on both Tuesday and Wednesday.

The government said more than 150 people were arrested on Tuesday.

So far, 25 rebel troops have sought asylum at the Brazilian embassy.

Speaking from the Spanish ambassador’s residence, Lopez said the small rebellion on Tuesday would eventually lead to the end of Maduro’s “dictatorship.”

“It’s a crack that will become a bigger crack ... that will end up breaking the dam,” Lopez said.

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