By Venezuelan Voices, 01/05/2019
Caracas, 1st of May. Before dawn, the morning April 30, the president of the National Assembly, Juan Guaidó and Voluntad Popular (VP) leader Leopoldo López, accompanied by roughly two dozen members of the Bolivarian National Guard (GNB) announced the launching of “Operation Liberty” to “put an end to the usurpation”, referring to the Maduro regime. Other political leaders such as María Corina Machado of the party Vamos Venezuela (VV), as well as Henry Ramos Allup and Edgar Zambrano of Acción Democrática (AD) party, were also present at the surroundings of Plaza Francia in Altamira, close to La Carlota military airport in the east of Caracas, showing support.
The military manoeuvers started with the release of López from house arrest. By calling on the military to switch sides and support the so called interim government, these leaders tried to indicate they were taking control of La Carlota. Quickly it became clear that the airport was in control of the chavista military. There were clashes between civilian protesters and GNB members loyal to Maduro, which used their white tanks to run over protesters and shot pellets at the crowd.
Following the call issued by Guaidó, thousands of protesters gathered around military buildings and areas in more than 70 cities. As the attempt to take control of La Carlota failed, Guaidó strove to head a mobilization westwards, towards the presidential palace of Miraflores, but it only advanced a couple of kilometers before being intercepted and dispersed by the GNB.
Cristopher Figuera, the head of the Bolivarian Service of National Intelligence (SEBIN), the political police, deserted. But the rest of the military sided with Maduro and the coup attempt failed.
The government managed to repress protests deploying GNB and Bolivarian National Police (PNB) members, leaving one civilian killed in the state of Aragua and at least 78 wounded, mostly in Caracas. The government said five members of the repressive forces were injured.
Internet and Cable TV access was restricted by official censorship and a radio station was closed in Caracas. Most TV stations issued regular programming, like cartoons and varieties, and did not report anything related to the protests or the coup attempt.
In the afternoon, López had reportedly fled to the Chilean embassy. Later he moved to the Spanish embassy. Guaidó went into hiding. Trump’s security advisor, John Bolton, had earlier admitted in a press conference that the coup attempt had been conducted with the direct involvement of the US government, after negotiating an agreement with defense minister Vladimir Padrino López, supreme court president Maikel Moreno and Rafael Hernandez Dala, head of the Presidential Honor Guard. They were supposedly committed to take Maduro out of power but failed to go on with the plan. Confirming the US government was the leading voice in the coup effort, Bolton insisted on his demand that Padrino Lopez and other top military commanders sided with Guaido or face the consequences.
Many Venezuelans viewed the mobilizations and the participation of military forces as an authentic rebellion against Maduro. However, the declarations by top US government officials confirmed that it was a coup attempt, albeit a failed one.
To further add to the confusion, the US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo contradicted Bolton in an interview conducted by CNN, by stating that Maduro had been willing to resign and take a flight to Havana, but had been dissuaded by the Russian government. A version met with disbelief by most journalists and commentators. Earlier, Trump had threatened the Cuban government with a complete blockade accusing it of deploying troops in Venezuela and taking part in the repression, an allegation the Cuban government denied. The Lima Group issued a declaration supporting Guaidó and rejecting that the failed power grab be qualified as a coup attempt.
The brazillian embassy in Caracas confirmed 25 low rank military members had sought asylum.
By night, both Maduro and Guaidó issued statements. Guaidó used social media to issue a previously recorded video calling for mobilizations on the 1st of May, without making any reference to the failed putsch. around 9:30pm, Maduro finally appeared on TV, also through a recorded message, stating that the AN leaders would be prosecuted. He designated Gustavo González López back at the head of the SEBIN. González López held the post at the time when political prisoner Fernando Albán was thrown out of a window from the SEBIN headquarters, an incident officially described as a suicide but denounced by human rights associations as a political murder. The scandal had led to his removal.
The left opposition rejected the coup attempt
The Party for Socialism and Freedom (PSL) issued a statement in the morning rejecting the coup attempt “summoned by Guaidó, the National Assembly bosses’ parties and sponsored by Donald Trump and the United States”. The PSL maintained they “reject this coup attempt which, taking advantage of the popular condemnation of Maduro’s government of starvation and repression, intends to install a pro-imperialist government to restore the old country´s oligarchy to power. This is no solution to the serious social problems working people and popular sectors undergo. Our clear repudiation of Guaido’s military coup does not mean any political support to Nicolas Maduro’s government…”
PSL considered that “independently mobilised people should oust Maduro and not a coup sponsored by Trump… we call to repudiate the attempt of a pro-US military coup, and not to give any support to a new imperialist interference in our country”. PSL advocates a popular rebellion and calls for the nationalization of the oil industry, currently in the hands of mixed enterprises with the participation of big multinationals like US based Chevron, and to stop paying the illegitimate foreign debt, to raise wages and to guarantee access to food and health.
Marea Socialista (MS) also repudiated “the coup attempt by Guaidó, López and their imperialist partners”. Their statement rejects the coup attempt for being “an antidemocratic manoeuver, because its political leadership responds to the interests of patronal sectors and because it’s an action supported by the US, whose actual boss is Trump. No government imposed by imperialism can bring benefits for the working class and the people”
MS also called for the working class and the popular sectors “to not serve as cannon fodder, without that meaning that we should stop struggling”.
Cover Image: AFP