Russia stopped Maduro from leaving Venezuela, Pompeo says
CARACAS, Venezuela – Venezuela's embattled President Nicolás Maduro was ready to leave Tuesday but Russia stopped him, U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said during an interview with CNN.
"He had an airplane on the tarmac," Pompeo said during an interview with CNN's Wolf Blitzer. "He was ready to leave this morning as we understand it and the Russians indicated he should stay."
Pompeo said U.S. intelligence agents believe Maduro was preparing to flee to Cuba.
Protests against embattled Maduro continued Tuesday afternoon in Caracas' Altamira area. Leopoldo López, an opposition leader and former political prisoner, found refuge at a Chilean diplomatic residence as a guest after spending about five years in prison and house arrest.
Juan Guaidó, Venezuela's U.S.-recognized interim president, said López's release was a sign that the opposition was gaining support from the military. They were outside of La Carlota Air Force base to announce a military uprising and later attended an "Operation Liberty" rally at the Plaza Altamira.
- Fire at La Carlota Air Force base
- Tanker plows into street protesters
- Maduro insists he still has the support of the Venezuelan military
- Guaidó's envoy in the U.S. said the opposition has the support of the middle and lower ranks of the military and Maduro has the support of the military elite.
- López finds refuge at Chilean diplomatic residence
Carlos Vecchio, Guaidó's envoy in the U.S., said the uprising involved middle and lower ranked members of the Venezuelan military. The high-ranking generals used social media to express their loyalty to Maduro.
As smoke billowed from the La Carlota Air Force base, protesters were braving the sounds of gunshots. They threw rocks and Molotov cocktails at members of the National Guard. There were several protesters on the ground after a National Guard tanker plowed into them.
A few uniformed members of the Venezuelan military supporting Guaidó were outside of the base talking to reporters and greeting protesters at Plaza Altamira. They wore a covalt blue band to show their support of Guaidó's effort and paraded on top of a vehicle.
Meanwhile, Maduro's administration said their coup attempt was a failure. His supporters held a rally outside of the Miraflores presidential palace. Venezuela's Foreign Minister Jorge Arreaza reported they were investigating López's escape and added it was likely that the U.S. paid a guard to let him go.
Members of the National Guard were using riot control rifles in the streets of Caracas. Protesters were braving plastic pellets with shields made out of card board, wood or aluminum. Some used their T-shirts or masks to protect themselves from tear gas.
According to Foro Penal, a prominent Venezuelan human rights organization, attorneys were able to confirm there have been 25 arrests related to Tuesday's demonstrations. They reported 11 people were arrested in Zulia, four in Aragua, three in Carabobo, two in Táchira, two in Lara, one in Mérida, one in Monagas and one in Caracas.
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