The Latest: Brazil leader praises Venezuela’s Guaidó

CARACAS, Venezuela (AP) — The Latest on the political crisis in Venezuela (all times local):

12:40 p.m.

Brazil’s president is praising Venezuelan opposition leader Juan Guaidó for his effort to topple the government of Nicolás Maduro.

Bolsonaro praised Guaidó’s “patriotic and democratic spirit to fight for freedom in his country” in remarks to reporters Wednesday after meeting with Cabinet ministers and military leaders about the situation in the neighboring country.

Bolsonaro also said he had intelligence pointing to a “fissure” within the Venezuelan armed forces.

The Brazilian president also expressed concern that U.S. embargos on Venezuelan oil could impact international oil prices and therefore fuel prices in Brazil.


12:30 p.m.

Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov has strongly criticized US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo for interference in Venezuela’s political crisis.

A ministry statement issued Wednesday says that Lavrov and Pompeo spoke by phone at the United States’ initiative.

It says “The focus was on the situation in Venezuela, where the day before the opposition … attempted to seize power,” with “the clear support of the United States.

It says the Russians stressed that “Washington’s interference in the internal affairs of a sovereign state, the threat against its leadership is a gross violation of international law.”

And it warned that “the continuation of aggressive steps is fraught with the most serious consequences.”


11:30 a.m.

State security forces are using tear gas to disperse protesters opposed to President Nicolás Maduro who have gathered at a middle-class neighborhood in western Caracas.

National Guardsmen on motorcycles arrived at the El Paraiso neighborhood Wednesday as opposition demonstrations got underway.

Some protesters shouted at the agents, saying, “Stop firing at the people!”

Many dispersed after white clouds of tear gas spread through the air while others vowed to remain, waving flags and banging pots.

The protests come a day after opposition leader Juan Guaidó attempted to spur a military uprising against Maduro — though few troops so far have joined his cause.

Maduro supporters are also holding rallies.


10:50 a.m.

Several hundred opposition supporters have gathered in a Caracas neighborhood, heeding a call by opposition leader Juan Guaidó for more protests a day after his calls for a military uprising fell short.

Some of Wednesday’s protesters in Altamira district said they were disappointed by the failure of the military to respond to the call to oust President Nicolás Maduro, as well as by the lack of a massive presence of demonstrators that could force a change of government.

Sixty-three-year-old Ninsa Borges says she’s hoping for a larger turnout of protesters this time.

Maduro has accused Guaidó of trying to stage a coup and says there will be criminal prosecutions.


10:45 a.m.

Venezuela’s unrest has forced the cancellation of several international flights to and from the country’s main airport.

Spanish airline Air Europa says Wednesday’s Caracas flights have been canceled. Flights over the next 10 days also might also be affected because of the “latest developments” in Venezuela.

The Caracas-based travel agency Molina Viajes says flights to and from Miami on Wednesday have been suspended.

Estelar airline says its Wednesday flight from Buenos Aires, Argentina, to Caracas has been cancelled. However, it says flights to and from Peru and Chile are operating.

Things are running more smoothly underground than in the sky: The Caracas subway is operating again after stopping service during clashes between opposition protesters and security forces across the Venezuelan capital a day earlier.


10:30 a.m.

U.S. National Security Adviser John Bolton says that Venezuelan President Nicolás Maduro is surrounded by “scorpions in a bottle” and it’s only a matter of time before he leaves power.

Bolton says key figures in Maduro’s leadership, including the defense minister and head of the presidential guard, have been “outed” as dealing with the opposition, which is led by Juan Guaidó, the National Assembly president who is recognized by the U.S. and scores of other countries as Venezuela’s legitimate president.

Speaking to reporters at the White House, Bolton said he doesn’t think Maduro can look at his defense minister any longer and trust him, and claimed the socialist leader spent most of Tuesday at a military prison in Caracas that the U.S. says is a key Cuban command post in Venezuela “because he doubted the loyalty of the Venezuelan armed forces.”


9:50 a.m.

The White House says U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo intends to discuss developments in Venezuela with his Russian counterpart.

That’s according to National Security Adviser John Bolton, who says Pompeo and Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov are expected to speak Wednesday.

Bolton and other U.S. officials say Russia is responsible for a decision by Venezuelan leader Nicolás Maduro to remain in his country. Bolton and Pompeo have claimed Maduro was ready to fly to Cuba on Tuesday following an attempted military uprising against him until Russia persuaded him to stay.

The U.S. has provided no evidence for the assertion, and Maduro has ridiculed it.

Massive pro- and anti-Maduro protests are planned across Venezuela on Wednesday. Bolton says the U.S. does not want a repeat of the violence that marred protests Tuesday.


8:50 a.m.

Stones, spent shotgun shells and tear gas canisters litter some streets in Venezuela’s capital, where both the government and opponents are calling for a second day of demonstrations.

Opposition leader Juan Guaidó is calling for Venezuelans to fill streets around the country later Wednesday to demand Nicolás Maduro’s ouster. Maduro’s also calling for his supporters to rally.

Guaidó called for a military uprising on Tuesday, but only a small group of soldiers broke ranks and top military leaders swore loyalty to Maduro.


3:50 a.m.

Spain’s government has confirmed that Venezuelan opposition activist Leopoldo López is at the Spanish Embassy in Caracas following an attempted military uprising on Tuesday that aimed to overthrow President Nicolas Maduro.

Spain’s government says López, who is Juan Guaidó’s political mentor and Venezuela’s most prominent opposition activist, is at the Spanish ambassador’s residence in Caracas along with his wife and daughter.

The Chilean Foreign Minister Roberto Ampuero had already said on Twitter that López and his wife had made the “personal decision” to go to the Spanish Embassy because the Chilean Embassy “already had guests.”

Detained in 2014 for leading a previous round of anti-government unrest, López said on Tuesday he had been released from house arrest by security forces following an order from Guaidó.


11:30 p.m.

He called it the moment for Venezuelans to reclaim their democracy once and for all. But as the hours dragged on, opposition leader Juan Guaidó stood alone on a highway overpass with the same small cadre of soldiers with whom he launched a bold effort to spark a military uprising and settle Venezuela’s agonizing power struggle.

Like past attempts to oust President Nicolas Maduro, the opposition seemed outmaneuvered again Tuesday. What Guaidó dubbed “Operation Freedom” triggered a familiar pattern of security forces using repressive tactics to crush small pockets of stone-throwing youths while millions of Venezuelans watched the drama unfold with a mix of fear and exasperation.

The opposition’s hoped-for split in the military didn’t emerge, a plane that the United States claimed was standing by to ferry Maduro into exile never took off and by nightfall one of the government’s bravest opponents, who defied house arrest to join the insurrection, had quietly sought refuge with his family in a foreign embassy.

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