Venezuela in crisis as Guaido calls for May Day protests
Embattled president Nicolas Maduro is "now surrounded by scorpions in a bottle and it’s only a matter of time" before he's ousted, US National Security Advisor John Bolton said on Wednesday.
“Maduro spent the day not in the company of Venezuelan forces, but surrounded by Cubans because he doubted the loyalty of the Venezuelan armed forces," Bolton told reporters in a briefing on the White House lawn.
"If this afternoon 20-25,000 Cubans left Venezuela, I think Maduro would fall by midnight," Bolton said.
His comments came the day after US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said Maduro had been on the cusp of fleeing to Cuba before he was talked into staying by Moscow – a claim denied by both Maduro and Russia.
When asked what evidence the administration had to support Pompeo's claims, Bolton said "this is one of those situations where I really can’t tell you the specifics of it."
President Nicolas Maduro vowed to "always defend" the rights of the working class, in his first tweet Wednesday in the wake of mass protests across Venezuela on Tuesday.
"Happy Day of the Worker!" Maduro wrote in the post, marking International Workers' Day.
"The working class have in me a President who will always defend their rights and claims, standing up to the empire and its lackeys that want to take away our achievements; they will fail. We will be victorious!" he wrote.
The tweet was accompanied by a video montage showing happy workers.
US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said Wednesday that American "military action is possible" in Venezuela.
"If that’s what’s required, that’s what the United States will do," added Pompeo, who was speaking to Fox Business.
"We would prefer a peaceful transition of government there, where (President Nicolas) Maduro leaves and a new election is held," Pompeo said, whose administration backs opposition leader Juan Guaido.
"But the president has made clear, in the event there comes a moment -- we’ll all have to make decisions about when that moment is -- the president will have to ultimately make that decision."
Burnt out motorcycles and buses litter the streets of Caracas this morning as Venezuelans brace themselves for another day of protests.
International Workers Day -- held on May 1 -- is a public holiday in Venezuela and for now the streets remain fairly quiet, according to journalist Stefano Pozzebon in the capital.
That is likely to change dramatically in the coming hours after Guaido called for continued protests against Maduro today.
"We've heard these calls for uprising before," said Pozzebon. "What we haven't seen before is yesterday's images of armored vehicles hitting crowds and gunfights from both sides of the struggle."
One man died in Tuesday's demonstrations, which spanned across 65 cities, according to Venezuelan rights monitoring group Provea.
Two other rights groups in Venezuela -- the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR), and the Venezuelan Observatory of Social Conflict -- also reported the death.
IACHR also said that protests were held in 24 states and, in at least 12 of the states, were “strongly repressed.”
Provea also said 83 people were arrested as of 8 p.m. Tuesday, citing the monitoring group Foro Penal.
More than 70 people were injured in the clashes and were taken to Salud Chacao Medical Center in Caracas, according to the hospital's president.
Syria has described Tuesday's "failed coup attempt" as a "strong blow" to the Trump administration, in an indication of how the Venezuelan crisis has divided international powers into pro- and anti-government camps.
Syria condemned the uprising and reiterated its “full solidarity with the friendly leadership, government and people of Venezuela," reported state news agency SANA on Wednesday, citing a source at the Foreign and Expatriates ministry.
The source said the US was "undermining stability in Venezuela” and putting the country under “economic siege.”
Syria's ally, Russia, has also been one of President Nicolas Maduro's main supporters.
On Tuesday, US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo -- whose administration backs opposition leader Juan Guaido -- claimed that Maduro was on the cusp of fleeing to Cuba before being talked into staying by Moscow. Maduro and Russia deny the claims.
In the last hour, Guaido tweeted that protests would "continue with more force than ever in Venezuela," and listed a number of meeting points in Caracas on Wednesday morning where protesters should gather.
Guaido also posted a link to his National Communication Center’s Twitter page which listed locations in 16 states throughout the country where protests will be taking place on Wednesday.
President Maduro has also called for pro-government marches to take place on Wednesday, which is international labor day -- a holiday marked by protests in many parts of the world.
As the sun rose over Venezuela Wednesday, it remained unclear whether the previous day's uprising, called for by opposition leader Juan Guaido, had tipped the balance in his months-long struggle for power with President Maduro.
The answer to that question still hangs in the balance after Maduro said his troops had defeated what he described as a "coup" attempt; Guaido, meanwhile, said Tuesday night that the President no longer had the support of the army.
Now attention turns to planned street protests on Wednesday, with supporters of both Guaido and Maduro expected to turn out in force.