Home News Maduro Speaks to Troops, Trying to Discredit Guaidó’s Call for Mutiny – The New York Times

Maduro Speaks to Troops, Trying to Discredit Guaidó’s Call for Mutiny – The New York Times

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Venezuela’s president sought to strengthen his image as the undisputed commander of the armed forces on Thursday, mustering troops in a televised show of authority days after the opposition tried to incite a military mutiny that fizzled within hours.

The president, Nicolás Maduro, was dressed in green fatigues and a cap as he waved and spoke to soldiers at a military base in Caracas, the capital. The event seemed intended to further contradict assertions by Juan Guaidó, the opposition leader, that the armed forces were switching their allegiance to him as the economy lurches toward collapse.

“Soldiers of the fatherland, it’s time to fight!” Mr. Maduro said to hundreds of soldiers at the Fuerte Tiuna base.

Mr. Guaidó, the leader of the opposition-controlled National Assembly, declared himself interim president more than three months ago, asserting that Mr. Maduro was a corrupt, illegitimate and incompetent autocrat who had stifled dissent and remained in power through an election widely believed to be fraudulent.

Mr. Guaidó has the support of more than 50 countries, but has been unable to turn military commanders to his side — and their support is crucial to turning the tide against Mr. Maduro.

On Tuesday he sought to re-energize his flagging effort to push Mr. Maduro out, orchestrating an appearance with Leopoldo López, a respected leader of the opposition who had apparently been allowed to walk free by officers who kept him in house arrest, and by some mutinous National Guard members.

The event surprised the country and raised speculation of a broader military uprising afoot against Mr. Maduro.

But hours later it was over, as top military commanders reasserted their fealty to him. Mr. Maduro and his aides described the event as an American-backed coup attempt and a prelude to a possible invasion instigated by Trump administration officials.

“How many would die if there is a civil war here because of their insanity?” Mr. Maduro said in his remarks to the troops Thursday. “How many years would we resist?”

At least 20 National Guard members who participated in the coup attempt sought asylum in the Brazilian Embassy in Caracas, and Mr. López sought protection with Spain’s ambassador to Venezuela.

But there has been no overt effort to arrest Mr. Guaidó, a reflection of the schisms in Venezuelan society over the political struggle convulsing the country.

Mr. Guaidó not only has the backing of the Trump administration but also of Latin American neighbors, including Brazil and Colombia, and most European countries. Mr. Maduro is backed by longtime allies such as Cuba and Russia.

Once Latin America’s most prosperous country, Venezuela is mired in hyperinflation, hunger, severe shortages and dysfunction. More than three million of its population of 30 million have fled. Mr. Maduro has blamed onerous American sanctions for the crisis.

The Trump administration, which clearly had advance notice of Mr. Guaidó’s effort on Tuesday, declared that several top aides of Mr. Maduro had been plotting against him and that there was a plan to take power.

One of those aides, according to top American officials, was the defense minister, Vladimir Padrino. But Mr. Padrino was seen side by side with Mr. Maduro in his televised appearance on Thursday, asking the troops to stay loyal and united.

“I’m outraged that they pretend to buy me with tricky offers,” Mr. Padrino said. “They pretend to buy us.”

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