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With U.S. Support, Venezuelan Opposition Launch a Coup in Latest Attempt to Oust Maduro

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Venezuelan opposition leader Juan Guaidó says a coup is underway in Caracas. Guaidó appeared this morning, in a video posted online, standing among heavily armed soldiers, proclaiming he is “starting the final phase of Operation Liberty.” He appeared alongside formerly jailed opposition leader Leopoldo López, who said he’d been freed from house arrest by military officers loyal to the opposition. Venezuela’s defense minister said the government of Nicolás Maduro remains in control and that military units reported “normality” at barracks and bases across Venezuela. We speak to attorney Eva Golinger, who who served as an adviser to former Venezuelan President Hugo Chávez.

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AMY GOODMAN: This is Democracy Now! I’m Amy Goodman. We’re broadcasting from Washington, D.C. In breaking news, Venezuelan opposition leader Juan Guaidó says a coup is underway in Caracas. Guaidó appeared this morning, in a video posted online, standing among heavily armed soldiers, proclaiming he is, quote, “starting the final phase of Operation Liberty,” unquote. Guaidó appeared alongside formerly jailed opposition leader Leopoldo López, who said he had been freed by military officers loyal to the opposition. López called on Venezuelans to rise up against the government of Nicolás Maduro.

LEOPOLDO LÓPEZ: [translated] What is happening in the capital today, all Venezuelans who want freedom should come here, disrupt order, join and encourage our soldiers, join our people. Good morning, Venezuela. Let’s do this together.

AMY GOODMAN: Reuters reports a witness later saw Venezuelan security forces fire tear gas directly at Juan Guaidó and around 70 armed men in military uniform where they had gathered near an Air Force base in Caracas.

The coup’s announcement was welcomed by the president of the European Parliament, who called it a, quote, “historic day for the return of democracy and freedom to Venezuela.” Colombia’s right-wing President Iván Duque tweeted, “We call the military and the people of #Venezuela to place themselves on the right side of history, rejecting Maduro’s dictatorship.” The coup also has apparent backing of the Trump administration and many lawmakers, including Republican Senator Marco Rubio of Florida, who tweeted, “After years of suffering freedom is waiting for people of #Venezuela. Do not let them take this opportunity from you. Now is the moment to take to the streets in support of your legitimate constitutional government. Do not allow this moment to slip away. It may not come again,” unquote.

Venezuela’s Socialist Party leader called on government supporters to amass at the presidential palace to defend President Nicolás Maduro against what he called a “small uprising of traitorous [military] soldiers backed by the U.S.” Venezuela’s defense minister said the Maduro government remains in control and that military units reported normality at barracks and bases across Venezuela. Maduro’s ally, Bolivian President Evo Morales, said in a statement, “We forcefully condemn the attempted coup d’état in Venezuela, which is being conducted by the right and backed by foreign interests,” Morales said.

We’re joined right now by Eva Golinger. She is an attorney and author who served as an adviser to the former Venezuela President Hugo Chávez. Her new book is called Confidante of 'Tyrants': The American Woman Trusted by the US’s Biggest Enemies.

We thank you so much, Eva, for joining us. What is it that you understand is taking place right now?

EVA GOLINGER: Well, there’s been, obviously, a lead-up to this situation for a couple months now, several months, really, where the opposition, led by Juan Guaidó, you know, has essentially declared themselves in charge of the country, even though they haven’t had charge of the country. Nicolás Maduro remains in power. And everyone’s been sort of waiting to see, well, what exactly is going to happen next.

And Guaidó had been calling for big marches in the streets tomorrow, on May 1st, which is also International Workers’ Day and a day of celebration usually in Venezuela in commemoration, big marches in the street. That had been announced publicly. This is similar to what took place, actually, in February, when there was humanitarian aid posted at the border from the United States, at the border with Colombia, and even though the announcement had been made that that aid would be entering the country on a certain day, it actually—the operation began the day before. So it seems as though, you know, they’re trying to get one foot ahead.

But, presently, I think some of the major developments would be, it appears, although it’s unclear what the numbers are, that some military, higher-ranking, have now sided with Guaidó and the opposition, and that Leopoldo López has been freed from his house arrest, which, of course, is major, because he’s one of the biggest figures of the far-right opposition. He can certainly garner the masses, more so even than Guaidó has done. And this was unexpected for many who were waiting until tomorrow to take to the streets. So I think we’re seeing a trickle-out effect in the streets right now in Caracas.

And, of course, we haven’t yet heard, at least as of this moment, from Nicolás Maduro. We’ve heard from several of his other Cabinet members, calling in to television programs on the— [no audio]

AMY GOODMAN: Eva Golinger, Venezuelan-American journalist, again, who served as legal adviser to former Venezuelan President Hugo Chávez. The latest news we have, President Trump has been briefed on events in Venezuela, where the army says it’s confronting a group of military traitors. If you can expand further on the role of the United States—of Elliott Abrams; John Bolton; the secretary of state, Pompeo; and the vice president, Pence—who, from the beginning of the re-election of Nicolás Maduro, have been congratulating Juan Guaidó as the legitimate president of Venezuela, though he wasn’t elected president? And interestingly, not only Fox—I was watching MSNBC, and when Guaidó’s wife came to Washington and met with Trump, their lower third read “first lady of Venezuela.”

EVA GOLINGER: Yeah, there’s been this sort of, you know, double dialogue going on, where the U.S. has recognized Guaidó as a legitimate so-called president of Venezuela, but he’s not the president of Venezuela, and he’s not in power of any of the institutions, at least as of up 'til today. We don't know what’s going to happen right now.

There’s no question that Guaidó, the opposition, would not have gotten to the point where they are today without the direct, explicit and very aggressive backing of the Trump administration. And, of course, Trump has made clear, as have all his advisers, that a military option is on the table. I think it’s curious that just recently reports came out, just in the past few hours, that Erik Prince, former owner of, founder of Blackwater, the mercenary company, has offered mercenaries to go to Venezuela. That may have already happened. Sometimes the news gets out after the fact. So, you know, I think that it’s absolutely clear that the opposition has been propped up by the United States. The U.S. has played an ongoing, aggressive role—I’ve been denouncing it now for over 15 years—in trying to undermine first the Chávez government, now Maduro’s administration.

And certainly, there are many in Venezuela who would hope for change in their country, but they don’t want a U.S.-backed regime in place. They don’t want a far-right, imposed regime that answers to foreign interests, which is what we’re seeing take place in the country. And I do believe it’s a very dangerous situation in Venezuela—there could be, you know, violent conflicts ahead—and that without this explicit backing of the United States, we wouldn’t be seeing the level of chaos that’s taking place in the country today, as well as the sanctions that have been imposed that have exacerbated Venezuela’s humanitarian crisis and the difficulties that a majority of Venezuelans are facing on an economic level in the country.

AMY GOODMAN: Eva Golinger, we want to thank you very much for being with us, Venezuelan-American journalist who served as legal adviser to the former Venezuelan President Hugo Chávez.

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