The Latest: Pompeo says US backs Venezuela’s Guaidó

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

9:30 a.m.

U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo says the Trump administration backs Venezuelan congressional leader Juan Guaido in his call for a military uprising against President Nicolas Maduro.

Pompeo says in a tweet that the U.S. “fully supports” Guaido’s call for the start of “Operacion Libertad.” He says the U.S. stands with the Venezuelan people “in their quest for freedom and democracy.” He says democracy cannot be defeated.

The Trump administration has led calls for countries to recognize Guaido as Venezuela’s legitimate leader since January. Earlier, Guaidó took to the streets with activist Leopoldo Lopez and a small contingent of heavily armed troops in a bold and risky call for the military to rise up and oust Maduro.

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9 a.m.

Two of the key allies of Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro are denouncing an attempted “coup d’etat” in the country.

Bolivian President Evo Morales issued a call via Twitter Tuesday urging Latin American governments “to condemn the coup d’etat in Venezuela and keep the violence from claiming innocent lives.”

He blamed the U.S. for “provoking violence and death in Venezuela.”

Cuban Foreign Minister Bruno Rodríguez also sent a tweet backing Maduro and calling on the U.S. to “halt aggressions against the peace.”

The U.S. backs opposition leader Juan Guaidó, who has been joined in the streets of Caracas by some soldiers and is urging the armed forces to oust Maduro.

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8:50 a.m.

One of the key allies of Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro is accusing the U.S. of backing a “coup” in the country.

Bolivian President Evo Morales issued a call via Twitter Tuesday urging Latin American governments “to condemn the coup d’etat in Venezuela and keep the violence from claiming innocent lives.”

He blamed the U.S. for “provoking violence and death in Venezuela.”

The U.S. backs opposition leader Juan Guaidó, who has been joined in the streets of Caracas by some soldiers and is urging the armed forces to oust Maduro.

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8:30 a.m.

Russian President Vladimir Putin has discussed the ongoing military uprising in Venezuela with his top security body.

Russian news agencies on Tuesday quoted Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov as saying that Putin raised the current developments in Venezuela during his scheduled meeting with the Security Council.

Peskov said that the meeting “paid significant attention to the news reports about a coup attempt in that country.”

He did not elaborate further.

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7:35 a.m.

Spain’s caretaker government has called for a bloodless and peaceful transition to a democratic presidential election in Venezuela.

Government spokeswoman Isabel Celaá says the government is following closely developments in Caracas, where the opposition has called for Venezuelans to take to the streets to oust Nicolás Maduro from power.

“We hope with all of our strength that there is no bloodshed. We support a peaceful democratic process in Venezuela. We support the immediate holding of an election for a new president,” Celaá said on Tuesday during a weekly routine press briefing.

Spain has recognized opposition leader Juan Guaidó as the interim president of Venezuela but has not cut ties with Maduro’s government.

More than 177,000 Spaniards live in Venezuela, and Spain has become a destination for thousands of Venezuelans escaping the political and economic crisis in recent years.

Celaá said Guaidó has “legitimacy to lead democratic transition in Venezuela.”

“Guaidó represents the alternative,” she added.

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7:10 a.m.

Venezuela’s socialist party boss, Diosdado Cabello, has called on government supporters to amass at the presidential palace to defend Nicolas Maduro from what he says is a small uprising of traitorous military soldiers backed by the U.S.

His comments in a phone call to state TV came after opposition leader Juan Guaidó appeared in a video with a small contingent of heavily armed soldiers and formerly detained opposition activist Leopoldo Lopez calling for Venezuelans to take to the streets to oust Maduro.

Cabello downplayed the significance of the rebellion, saying Caracas is in calm and that the Carlota air base near where the rebellious soldiers are gathered had not been touched.

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7:05 a.m.

The father of prominent Venezuelan opposition leader Leopoldo López says he is expecting a military and popular response following the release of his son in Caracas.

“We are going to see a national call to people and the military to end the usurpation and, well, I hope that the usurpation government will end today,” Leopoldo López, Sr., said Tuesday in a brief telephone conversation from the United States.

His son had been under house arrest for leading an anti-government push in 2014. He said Tuesday he had been freed by the military.

The father, who lives in Spain and has become a prominent voice of the Venezuelan opposition in exile, said that the military were obeying a presidential pardon issued by Juan Guaidó, who is leading the opposition against the government of Nicolás Maduro.

The elder López, who is running for a seat in the European Parliament at the end of May, said he couldn’t comment on whether Tuesday’s developments had been coordinated with the United States or other countries that have backed Guaidó.

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6:50 a.m.

Venezuelan opposition leader Juan Guaido has taken to the streets with a small contingent of heavily-armed soldiers and detained activist Leopoldo Lopez in a military uprising.

“This is the moment of all Venezuelans, those in uniform and those who aren’t,” said Lopez in his first public appearance since being detained in 2014 for leading anti-government protests. “Everyone should come to the streets, in peace.”

The comments by Lopez came moments after Guaidó appeared in an early morning video shot at a Caracas air base surrounded by several heavily armed soldiers and armored vehicles.

Guaido said soldiers who had taken to the streets were protecting Venezuela’s constitution. He made the comments a day before a planned anti-government rally.

“The moment is now,” he said.

Information Minister Jorge Rodriguez said on Twitter that Nicolas Maduro’s government was confronting a small “coup attempt” led by military “traitors” backed by right-wing opponents.

Tear gas was fired at a highway overpass next to the Caracas air base where several heavily-armed soldiers with a blue band wrapped around their forearms had been standing guard. The tear gas appeared to have been fired from inside the air base.

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6:35 a.m.

Venezuela’s government said it is putting down a small coup attempt by military “traitors” working with right-wing opponents.

Information Minister Jorge Rodriguez’s comments on Twitter came after opposition leader Juan Guaidó called for a military uprising in a video that showed him surrounded by heavily armed soldiers and accompanied by detained activist Leopoldo Lopez at a Caracas air base.

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6:25 a.m.

Venezuelan opposition leader Juan Guaido has called for a military uprising, in a video shot at a Caracas air base showing him surrounded by soldiers and accompanied by detained activist Leopoldo Lopez.

In the three-minute video shot early Tuesday, Guaido said soldiers who took to the streets would be acting to protect Venezuela’s constitution. He made the comments a day before a planned anti-government rally. 

“The moment is now,” he said, as his political mentor Lopez and several heavily armed soldiers backed by a single armored vehicle looked on.

Lopez has been under house arrest for leading an anti-government push in 2014.

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