Protests turned violent today in Venezuela as demonstrators opposed to President Nicholas Maduro clashed with security forces on the streets of Caracas. A brutal video obtained by multiple news organizations shows an armored police vehicle plowing into a crowd of opposition protesters, hitting several, and spraying others with water cannons.
Warning: the below footage depicts graphic violence.
Today's protests follow a call earlier this morning for a military uprising from opposition leader Juan Guiadó, who released a three-minute video from a Caracas airbase, declaring that "the moment is now" and that soldiers who joined the opposition would be acting to protect the Venezuelan Constitution.
Venezuela's socialist government dismissed the street protests as a coup attempt hatched by right-wing "traitors," calling on Maduro supporters to rally at the presidential palace. Venezuelan Foreign Minister Jorge Arreaza called out the U.S. government for instigating the violence, saying via Twitter that "the heads of the coup d'état admit their responsibility without scruples. The Trump administration, in its despair, attempts to spark an internal conflict in Venezuela. Venezuela's democratic institutions guarantee peace in the country."
The Trump administration has not been shy about endorsing the opposition protesters.
"The U.S. Government fully supports the Venezuelan people in their quest for freedom and democracy. Democracy cannot be defeated," tweeted Secretary of State Mike Pompeo.
Today interim President Juan Guaido announced start of Operación Libertad. The U.S. Government fully supports the Venezuelan people in their quest for freedom and democracy. Democracy cannot be defeated. #EstamosUnidosVE
— Secretary Pompeo (@SecPompeo) April 30, 2019
"To Juan Guaidó, the National Assembly and all the freedom-loving people of Venezuela who are taking to the streets today in #operacionlibertad—Estamos con ustedes! We are with you! America will stand with you until freedom & democracy are restored," tweeted Vice President Mike Pence.
To @jguaido, the National Assembly and all the freedom-loving people of Venezuela who are taking to the streets today in #operacionlibertad—Estamos con ustedes! We are with you! America will stand with you until freedom & democracy are restored. Vayan con dios! #FreeVenezuela
— Vice President Mike Pence (@VP) April 30, 2019
In February, President Trump called for the Venezuelan military to abandon Maduro and support the Guiadó-led opposition.
Carlos Vecchio, the Venezuelan opposition's envoy to Washington, said in a news conference earlier today that the U.S. played no role in coordinating today's protests.
It's currently unclear how many people have been injured as a result of today's demonstrations. Despite Guiadó's calls for a military uprising, and Maduro's denunciation of the "coup" attempt, it's also not clear how much military-backing the protesters are receiving.
According to the Associated Press, "demonstrators have been clashing with pro-Maduro troops, but the revolt so far seems to have only limited military backing."