BOGOTA, Colombia – Protests against embattled President Nicolás Maduro continued Tuesday evening 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.
"This is the moment to take to the streets and accompany these patriotic soldiers," López said.
- Fire at La Carlota Air Force base
- National Guard 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
- Pompeo said Russians stopped Maduro from leaving to Cuba
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.
During an interview with CNN, U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said Maduro was ready to leave to Cuba, but Russians stopped him. U.S. National Security Adviser John Bolton said three key officials, including the head of the supreme court, pledged to remove 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.
"Nerves of steel," Maduro tweeted.
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.
"Those who try to take Miraflores with violence will be met with violence," Defense Minister Vladimir Padrino López said on Venezuelan television.
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. Doctors told The Associated Press there were at least 50 injured in Caracas.