President Nicolas Maduro has urged Venezuela’s armed forces to fight “any coup plotter”, two days after US-backed opposition leader Juan Guaido attempted a coup in the South American country.
Flanked by soldiers, the Venezuelan president made the remark in a televised event with the military high command on Thursday, a day after he announced that a coup attempt by 35-year-old Guaido on Tuesday had been thwarted.
“Yes, we are in combat, keep morale high in this fight to disarm any traitor, any coup plotter,” Maduro said, as he attended a “march to reaffirm the absolute loyalty” of the Venezuelan army.
“No one can be afraid, it is the hour to defend our right to peace,” he added at the ceremony in which, according to the government, 4,500 military personnel were present.
Venezuela has been in political turmoil since Guaido declared himself “interim president” late in January, receiving immediate recognition from Washington.
The administration of US President Donald Trump has since been mounting economic pressure on Caracas and repeatedly threatened to use military force to topple Maduro’s government.
Washington has also confiscated Venezuela’s US-based oil assets in an attempt to channel revenue from them to Guaido.
On Tuesday morning, Guaido, standing near the La Carlota air force base in capital Caracas and surrounded by a group of some 70 armed men in uniform, called for military units to support him in the “final phase” of a plan to end Maduro’s “usurpation” of power.
The revolt, which received direct support from US National Security Adviser John Bolton and US Secretary of State Michael Pompeo, sparked two days of clashes between dozens of Guido’s supporters and security forces.
At least two people were killed in the clashes and, according to human rights organizations and health services, 46 people sustained injuries, including one person with a gunshot wound.
Guaido’s plan to dislodge Maduro proved to be unsuccessful as top leaders and high-ranking military officials reiterated their full support for the government, and 25 rebel troopers sought asylum at the Brazilian embassy in the capital.
Furthermore, opposition politician Leopoldo Lopez, who had managed to escape from prison and made a dramatic appearance alongside Guaido on Tuesday, took refuge at the home of Spanish Ambassador Jesús Silva Fernández.
“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, describing Guaido’s move as “child’s play.”
Despite his failure to launch a mass insurrection in the military, crestfallen Guaido still urged his supporters to remain in the streets till the ouster of Maduro.
“We’re going to remain in the streets until we achieve freedom for the Venezuelan people,” he told supporters on Wednesday, saying industrial action would begin on Thursday, leading to a general strike.
Separately on Wednesday, pro-Maduro crowds of people marched through Caracas in support of his government.
“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 said at the event.
Maduro has repeatedly accused Washington of openly pushing for a coup in the oil-rich Latin American country by confiscating its state oil assets based in the US and channeling them to Guaido.
Caracas has accused Washington of waging an economic war, which has led to hyperinflation and widespread shortages of food and medicine in Venezuela.