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Venezuela military split, Guaido calls labor strike



By Argus

Petroleumworld 05 07 2019

Anti-government protests are underway across Venezuela again today after a brief military uprising in Caracas yesterday revealed deepening schisms within the armed forces that have been the backbone of support for President Nicolas Maduro.

National Assembly president Juan Guaido, who is recognized as Venezuela's acting president by the US and dozens of western governments , addressed jubilant supporters in the El Marques neighborhood of eastern Caracas at around 12:30pm ET today. He urged Venezuelans to stay on the streets, called on more of the military to join the opposition cause, and summoned public-sector workers to launch a staged labor strike tomorrow. "We are going to stay on the streets until we achieve the freedom of all of Venezuela," he said. "We are going to bring all of the military to our cause, the same with the public-sector workers."

National Guard anti-riot units backed by armored personnel carriers deployed early today in the capital and other cities to quell unarmed protesters with heavy barrages of tear gas.

Protesters demanded Maduro's departure and the withdrawal of Cuban and Russian military and civilian personnel that are seen as propping him up.

In the western Caracas working-class enclave of El Paraiso, guard units have so far failed to disperse protesters with tear gas. "The guard's gas attacks are only fueling the people's rage," a protest organizer in El Paraiso told Argus by telephone. A National Guard major at the guard's national headquarters in El Paraiso said anti-riot forces have been ordered to keep protests from spreading into the populous and mostly poor neighborhoods of western Caracas.

Opposition leader and the head of Guaido's Voluntad Popular party Leopoldo Lopez is not likely to resurface publicly for now after he turned up at Guaido's side at the start of the dawn uprising yesterday. Lopez had been serving a 14-year sentence under house arrest for inciting violence until he was freed by his intelligence service (Sebin) guards around 4am ET yesterday, according to the accounts of his supporters. He is now a "guest" in the Spanish embassy, after a brief stay yesterday at the Chilean embassy.

Sebin director general Manuel Christopher Figuera was arrested late yesterday on treason charges after he allegedly obeyed a presidential pardon issued by Guaido freeing Lopez from house arrest.

Figuera was considered a longtime close associate of Maduro and first lady Cilia Flores. The Sebin director's decision to apparently side with Guaido points to widening fractures among the handful of senior generals that comprise Maduro's inner circle of military backers.

The whereabouts of some 300 National Guard officers and troops who yesterday backed Guaido's call for a civil-military uprising against Maduro currently remains unknown. An army colonel at Fort Tiuna who supports Guaido tells Argus "our people are trying to locate them now. We don't know if they escaped or have been arrested."

Unlike yesterday's protests, which started when Guaido unexpectedly called for a civilian-military uprising outside the La Carlota military airbase in eastern Caracas, the government so far has not blocked telecommunications and internet access.

Maduro and his powerful associate Diosdado Cabello, president of the rubber-stamp National Constituent Assembly, have vowed to crack down on the dissidents.

Supreme court chief justice Maikel Moreno, a Maduro stalwart, has convened an emergency session of the full court today to "review the actions" of the National Assembly deputies.

Three army colonels based at Fort Tiuna in Caracas where the third armored infantry division is headquartered said tensions in the barracks are running high.

"All sides including officers loyal to Maduro and officers seeking the president's removal from power are doing everything in their power to avoid armed clashes between their troops," one of the army colonels said. "No one was killed yesterday in Altamira (eastern Caracas) because the guards supporting Guaido fired their weapons into the air. We don't want to shed the blood of our brothers."

Casualty reports compiled by independent NGOs as of 7pm ET yesterday confirm 1 death, 109 injuries and 13 arrests nationwide. But early indications today in Caracas suggest a rise in deaths and injuries as more guard forces flood the city's streets to suppress the protests.

Other opposition leaders were on the streets today. "This is irreversible," said Andres Velasquez, head of the opposition Causa R party and a historical labor leader. "The workers will stay in the streets, calling on the armed forces to get on the side of the people."



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Story from Argus Media. 05 01 2019


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