'We are with you!' US says of Venezuela opposition uprising

WASHINGTON (AP) — Venezuelan opposition leaders calling for a military uprising against the government of President Nicolás Maduro gained quick messages of support Tuesday from the Trump administration amid a possible turning point in the South American nation's political crisis.

Vice President Mike Pence, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and national security adviser John Bolton all expressed support for the opposition as its two most prominent figures, Juan Guaidó and Leopoldo Lopez, stood with soldiers and called for the people, and the security forces, to rise up against Maduro.

"We are with you!" Pence tweeted to the opposition, in the most direct message of the three. "America will stand with you until freedom & democracy are restored."

Pompeo welcomed what the Venezuelan opposition leaders were calling "Operacion Libertad," in hopes that the abrupt release of Lopez from house arrest and the apparent backing of uniformed soldiers would prompt more members of the security forces to abandon Maduro.

The U.S. views Maduro's re-election last year as illegitimate and has recognized Guaidó, the opposition leader of the National Assembly, as interim president.

"The U.S. Government fully supports the Venezuelan people in their quest for freedom and democracy," Pompeo said on Twitter. "Democracy cannot be defeated."

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Opponents to Venezuela's President Nicolas Maduro throw stones at soldiers loyal to the president inside La Carlota airbase in Caracas, Venezuela, Tuesday, April 30, 2019. Venezuelan opposition leader Juan Guaidó took to the streets with activist Leopoldo Lopez and a small contingent of heavily armed troops early Tuesday in a bold and risky call for the military to rise up and oust socialist leader Nicolas Maduro. (AP Photo/Fernando Llano)
El autoproclamado presidente de Venezuela Juan Guaidó (con megáfono) y el líder opositor Leopoldo López (a la derecha) con partidarios en Caracas el 30 de abril del 2019 (AP Photo/Fernando Llano)
An opponent to Venezuela's President Nicolas Maduro high fives a rebel soldier on a highway overpass outside La Carlota air base amid tear gas fired by loyalist soldiers inside the base in Caracas, Venezuela, Tuesday, April 30, 2019. Venezuelan opposition leader Juan Guaidó took to the streets in Caracas with activist Leopoldo Lopez and a small contingent of heavily armed troops early Tuesday in a bold and risky call for the military to rise up and oust socialist leader Nicolas Maduro. (AP Photo/Boris Vergara)
An opposition demonstrator affected by tear gas is assisted during clashes with soldiers loyal to Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro after troops joined opposition leader Juan Guaido in his campaign to oust Maduro's government, in the surroundings of La Carlota military base in Caracas on April 30, 2019. - Guaido -- accused by the government of attempting a coup Tuesday -- said there was "no turning back" in his attempt to oust President Nicolas Maduro from power. (Photo by Yuri CORTEZ / AFP) (Photo credit should read YURI CORTEZ/AFP/Getty Images)
An anti-government protester sits by ammunition being used by rebel troops rising up against the government of Venezuela's President Nicolas Maduro as they all take cover on an overpass outside La Carlota military airbase where the rebel soldiers confront loyal troops inside the base in Caracas, Venezuela, Tuesday, April 30, 2019. Venezuelan opposition leader Juan Guaidó and jailed opposition leader Leopoldo Lopez took to the streets with a small contingent of heavily armed troops early Tuesday in a bold and risky call for the military to rise up and oust Maduro. (AP Photo/Boris Vergara)
Opponents to Venezuela's President Nicolas Maduro confront loyalist Bolivarian National Guard troops firing tear gas at them, outside La Carlota military airbase in Caracas, Venezuela, Tuesday, April 30, 2019. Venezuelan opposition leader Juan Guaidó took to the streets with activist Leopoldo Lopez and a small contingent of heavily armed troops early Tuesday in a bold and risky call for the military to rise up and oust socialist leader Nicolas Maduro. (AP Photo/Fernando Llano)
Opposition demonstrators clash with soldiers loyal to Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro after troops joined opposition leader Juan Guaido in his campaign to oust Maduro's government, in the surroundings of La Carlota military base in Caracas on April 30, 2019. - Guaido -- accused by the government of attempting a coup Tuesday -- said there was "no turning back" in his attempt to oust President Nicolas Maduro from power. (Photo by Yuri CORTEZ / AFP) (Photo credit should read YURI CORTEZ/AFP/Getty Images)
Opposition demonstrators clash with soldiers loyal to Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro after troops joined opposition leader Juan Guaido in his campaign to oust Maduro's government, in the surroundings of La Carlota military base in Caracas on April 30, 2019. - Guaido -- accused by the government of attempting a coup Tuesday -- said there was "no turning back" in his attempt to oust President Nicolas Maduro from power. (Photo by Federico PARRA / AFP) (Photo credit should read FEDERICO PARRA/AFP/Getty Images)
Opposition demonstrators clash with soldiers loyal to Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro after troops joined opposition leader Juan Guaido in his campaign to oust Maduro's government, in the surroundings of La Carlota military base in Caracas on April 30, 2019. - Guaido -- accused by the government of attempting a coup Tuesday -- said there was "no turning back" in his attempt to oust President Nicolas Maduro from power. (Photo by Yuri CORTEZ / AFP) (Photo credit should read YURI CORTEZ/AFP/Getty Images)
An opposition demonstrator throws a tear gas canister during clashes with soldiers loyal to Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro after troops joined opposition leader Juan Guaido in his campaign to oust Maduro's government, in front of La Carlota military base in Caracas on April 30, 2019. - Guaido -- accused by the government of attempting a coup Tuesday -- said there was "no turning back" in his attempt to oust President Nicolas Maduro from power. (Photo by Yuri CORTEZ / AFP) (Photo credit should read YURI CORTEZ/AFP/Getty Images)
Opposition demonstrators prepare Molotov cocktails during clashes with soldiers loyal to Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro after troops joined opposition leader Juan Guaido in his campaign to oust Maduro's government, in the surroundings of La Carlota military base in Caracas on April 30, 2019. - Guaido -- accused by the government of attempting a coup Tuesday -- said there was "no turning back" in his attempt to oust President Nicolas Maduro from power. (Photo by Matias DELACROIX / AFP) (Photo credit should read MATIAS DELACROIX/AFP/Getty Images)
A person covers their eyes with a Venezuelan flag during a military uprising near the La Carlota base in Caracas, Venezuela, on Tuesday, April 30, 2019. Guaido on Tuesday went to a military base in the nation's capital to proclaim the end of socialist President Nicolas Maduro's regime and called for a military uprising. Photographer: Carlos Becerra/Bloomberg via Getty Images
Opposition demonstrators try to bring down the fence around the La Carlota military base in Caracas during clashes with soldiers loyal to Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro after troops joined opposition leader Juan Guaido in his campaign to oust Maduro's government, on April 30, 2019. - Guaido -- accused by the government of attempting a coup Tuesday -- said there was "no turning back" in his attempt to oust President Nicolas Maduro from power. (Photo by Matias DELACROIX / AFP) (Photo credit should read MATIAS DELACROIX/AFP/Getty Images)
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U.S. officials were otherwise cautious as they evaluated the situation and waited to see what would develop in the country. In 2002, then President George W. Bush endorsed a coup attempt against the late President Hugo Chavez only to see it fail and his return to power two days later.

Asked about the situation, acting White House chief of staff Mick Mulvaney made a distinction between the 2002 events and the current situation.

"Importantly, we do not consider it a coup," he said at a conference in California.

Shortly thereafter, Bolton said in a tweet addressed to Venezuelan Defense Minister Vladimir Padrino that the country's security forces must protect the country's constitution and stand with the parliament that Guaidó heads.

"The (army) must protect the Constitution and the Venezuelan people," Bolton said. "It should stand by the National Assembly and the legitimate institutions against the usurpation of democracy. The United States stands with the people of Venezuela."

The Trump administration has led calls for countries to recognize Guaidó as Venezuela's legitimate leader and has won the support of 54 countries. But the effort to recruit more has largely stalled as Maduro clings to power amid a badly deteriorating economic situation.

Maduro has denounced his opponents as killers and criminals.

 

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