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  1. ITV Report

Clashes in Caracas after Venezuela’s Juan Guaido calls for uprising to oust President Nicolas Maduro

Fierce clashes between police and anti-government protesters in Venezuela continued throughout Tuesday, hours after opposition leader Juan Guaido and key activist Leopoldo Lopez called for a military uprising against the government of Nicolas Maduro.

In one dramatic incident during a chaotic day, several armoured vehicles plowed into a group of anti-government demonstrators trying to storm the capital's air base, hitting at least two protesters.

It is thought around 50 protesters have been injured in street battles against government forces, many hurt by rubber bullets, but at least one person had been shot with live ammunition.

Many pro-Maduro supporters have also taken to the streets of the South American country, in a display of support for the president.

  • Local journalist Juan Carlos Rivas Lamas spoke to ITV News from Caracas where he says there is a "high level of uncertainty". Mr Rivas Lamas added that while the government says it has control of the "attempted coup", thousands of protesters remain on the streets across the country. However, he adds that many pro-Maduro supporters also remain on the streets, as many millions of Venezuelans still back him.

While Mr Guaido was flanked by members of the military in his video calling for an uprising, the rebellion, dubbed "Operation Freedom," seemed to have garnered only limited military support.

The Government said they were putting down what they described as a small coup attempt by forces "traitors" as TV footage showed a Venezuelan National Guard vehicle running over protesters who were throwing stones and hitting vehicles with sticks outside a military base in the capital.

A soldier stands on the air base in Caracas where Mr Guaido called for a military uprising. Credit: AP

Operation Freedom is the most serious challenge yet to Maduro's rule and was sparked by a three-minute video shot on Tuesday morning of Mr Guido, surrounded by members of the military, calling for Venezuelan people to rise up and remove the social leader.

Meanwhile, US National Security Adviser John Bolton said the Trump administration was waiting for three key officials, including Maduro's defence minister and head of the supreme court, to act on what he said were private pledges to remove Mr Maduro, however, he did not provide any more details.

Mr Guaido said soldiers who took to the streets would be acting to protect Venezuela’s constitution, as he spoke from an airbase in Caracas.

Alongside Mr Guaido was Leopoldo Lopez, his political mentor and the nation's most-prominent opposition activist.

Mr Lopez had been detained in 2014 for leading anti-government unrest but had been freed by members of the military responding to an order by Mr Guaido.

He said: "This is the moment of all Venezuelans, those in uniform and those who aren't.

"Everyone should come to the streets, in peace."

Activist Leopoldo Lopez is greeted by a supporter outside La Carlota air base in Caracas. Credit: AP

The UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres has called for maximum restraint and urged both sides to "push for dialogue in order to resolve this peacefully."

US-backed Mr Guaido, who declared himself interim president in January, told the people of Venezuela "the end of the usurpation" was beginning against the government of Mr Maduro.

His latest comments come a day before a planned anti-government rally.

Venezuelan people have been told by Mr Guaido to come to the streets in peace. Credit: AP

Tear gas has been fired to break up protesters and sporadic gunfire could be heard, as supporters of Mr Guaido gathered on an overpass in wealthier eastern Caracas.

People took to the streets, as they sensed what could be their strongest opportunity yet to overthrow the government with Mr Guaido tweeting to say the final phase of what he called 'Operation Liberty' had begun.

Venezuela's government has downplayed the attempts by Mr Guaido to overthrow the president and said it was putting down a small coup attempt by military "traitors" working with right-wing opponents.

Diosdado Cabello called on government supporters to gather at the presidential palace to defend Mr Maduro.

Mr Cabello said Caracas was calm and the Carlota air base near where the rebellious soldiers were gathered had not been touched.

Information minister Jorge Rodriguez said in a tweet the government was "deactivating" the group and called on the people to defeat the coup.

Mr Rodriguez said: "We call on the people to maintain maximum alert so, together the glorious National Armed Bolivarian forces defeat the intent to mount a coup and preserve the peace. We will win."

The Venezuela government has downplayed the attempts by Mr Guaido to trigger a military uprising. Credit: AP

US secretary of state Mike Pompeo has said Washington backs Mr Guaido.

Pompeo said the US stands with the Venezuelan people "in their quest for freedom and democracy", adding democracy cannot be defeated.

The White House has said it is "watching and waiting" on the situation in Venezuela and hoping the result is democracy.

Downing Street has called for an end to the regime of Mr Maduro amid renewed unrest in the South American country.

Prime Minister Theresa May's official spokesman said the UK wanted a "peaceful resolution" to the crisis.

Mr Guaido vows to overthrow Mr Maduro, as he argues last year's re-election of the incumbent president was invalid.

The US and about 50 other countries have recognised Mr Guaido as Venezuela’s legitimate leader.