Over 100 injured, 2 killed in Venezuela uprising; Maduro still in power

Venezuelans take part in a protest against the government of Nicolas Maduro on March 9, 2019 in Caracas, Venezuela. Opposition leader and self appointed interim President Juan Guaidó summoned Venezuelan's to take the streets and demand the resignation of President Maduro. Images in Ave Victoria Caracas. | Getty/Edilzon Gamez

Over 100 are injured and at least two people have reportedly been killed after two days of protests in Venezuela failed to oust socialist leader Nicolás Maduro.

Opposition leader Juan Guaidó acknowledged late Wednesday that the coup attempt failed but encouraged supporters to continue the protests until Maduro leaves office. 

“As long as we are mobilized and united, we are very close to achieving our freedom,” Guaidó said on the Fox Business Network. “Can’t tell you a specific date or time. Working on transition. Democracy has always taken time.”

In Caracas, the nation’s capital, thousands of demonstrators took to the streets to show their support for opposition leader Juan Guaidó a day after he called for a failed military uprising against the socialist Maduro regime.

An opposing rally also was held in support of Maduro in Caracas Wednesday.

As standoffs occurred at La Carlota Airbase and elsewhere in Caracas between security forces and protestors, CNN reports that more than 100 people have been injured, 117 arrested and two people are reported to have been killed. 

Mayor Gustavo Duque told media that a medical center in the Caracas administrative district of Chacao took in as many as 27 patients related to clashes between security services and protestors by late afternoon on Wednesday.

A director of the hospital in Caracas explained that doctors received at least 50 patients injured during the clashes that took place on Tuesday, the Associated Press reported.

According to AP, government forces have largely relied on tear gas and rubber bullets while protestors have largely been armed with shields, stones, and rocks.

But Wednesday, a human rights group reported the death of a 27-year-old woman identified as Jurubith Rausseo, a protester said to have been shot in the head in a clash near Plaza Altamira and rushed to medical attention.

Her death was reported by the NGO The Venezuelan Observatory of Social Conflict, according to CNN. Her killing was condemned by Guaidó in a tweet

Reports have also indicated that a 24-year-old male protester named Samuel Méndez was killed in the city of La Victoria on Tuesday. 

"The dictatorship killed a 24-year-old who manifested his desire to live in freedom," Guaidó asserted in a tweet. "I know that my condolences to your family is not enough, but know the usurper that in every step we give to freedom is the strength of our martyrs demanding justice. And that's not a game."

CNN reported earlier Wednesday that of at least 70 people who were hospitalized with injuries, 42 of them were treated for rubber bullet wounds and two were treated for gunshot wounds.

Additionally, Defense Minister Vladimir Padrino stated that a military colonel was shot during clashes.

Video emerged Tuesday showing a military vehicle running over and plowing into a crowd of protesters shortly after Guaidó called for the military uprising.

As the South American country is plagued by food shortages and a struggling economy, many question the legitimacy of the Maduro regime. Many have accused Maduro’s re-election in 2018 of being impaired by fraud.

As head of Venezuela’s National Assembly, Guaidó declared himself the acting president in January, a title recognized by the Trump administration and governments in more than 50 countries. Guaidó promised a transitional government and free elections.

At a Wednesday rally, Guaidó called on supporters to prepare for a strike. A day earlier, he had called for a mass military defection among troops loyal to Maduro. However, the attempt was not successful.

Guaidó boasted on Twitter that the "final phase" of "OperaciónLibertad" starts with millions of Venezuelans on the street. However, as Reuters notes, many protesters returned home in the late afternoon with Maduro still in power. 

“It’s totally clear now the usurper has lost,” Guaidó was quoted as saying.

Maduro appeared on state-run television on Tuesday night and labeled Guaidó’s call for an uprising a U.S.-backed coup attempt from the "coup-mongering far-right."

The president vowed that Guaidó’s actions "will not go unpunished."

"The regime will try to increase the repression, it will try to persecute me, to stage a coup d'etat,” Guaidó’ was quoted as saying.

According to the online censorship watchdog NetBlocks, Venezuela’s state-run internet service provider restricted access to live-streaming applications, the video-streaming giant YouTube and translation products from Google and Microsoft on Wednesday.

Venezuelans have been plagued by food and medicine shortages as well as hyperinflation and power cuts that have led to over 3 million fleeing the country in recent years.

Many Venezuelans have blamed Maduro and the socialist government for the economy’s decline.  

To make matters worse, the Maduro regime has attempted to block humanitarian aid from entering the country.

Maduro was re-elected in 2018. However, a number of opposition candidates were barred from running and others were jailed or forced to flee the country. This led many to question the fairness of the election.

The Trump administration has said that it is prepared to take military action if it needs to stop the humanitarian crisis in Venezuela.

Secretary of State Mike Pompeo reiterated this on Wednesday but did not elaborate on what the breaking point would be for the U.S. military to get involved.

"When people say all options are on the table, they literally are, but we work it as much diplomatically and economically to impose pressure," Acting Defense Secretary Patrick Shanahan said Wednesday, according to CNN. “[W]e've done exhaustive planning so there's not a situation or scenario that we don't have a contingency for."

The U.S. government has claimed that about 20,000 Cuban troops and agents have been operating in Venezuela in an effort to prop up the Maduro regime, a claim disputed by the Cuban government. President Donald Trump vowed to issue a “full and complete” embargo if its troops do not cease activity in Venezuela.

Pompeo claimed in an interview on Tuesday that Maduro was ready to flee the country amid protest until Russia convinced him to stay.

“He was ready to go,” Pompeo claimed on Fox News. “He was diverted by the Russians.”

Pompeo claimed that Venezuela has faced "the singularly worst humanitarian crisis, absent conflict, absent war, in the history of the world."

On Wednesday, Russia's Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov told Pompeo by phone that more "aggressive steps" by the U.S. against the Maduro regime would be "fraught with consequences."

According to AFP, Lavrov called the U.S. a "destructive influence" that is interfering in Venezuela's internal affairs. The call was confirmed by State Department spokeswoman Morgan Ortagus.

Follow Samuel Smith on Twitter: @IamSamSmith

or Facebook: SamuelSmithCP

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