Rival protests grip Venezuela after Guaido’s failed effort to beckon military

Nicholas Casey, The New York Times

Posted at May 02 2019 07:44 AM

Partisans of Venezuela's President Nicolas Maduro march in support of his government and to commemorate May Day in Caracas, Venezuela, May 1, 2019. Carlos Eduardo Ramirez, Reuters

A day after the Venezuelan opposition’s call for a military uprising failed, the country’s political crisis returned to a protracted standoff punctuated by violence on Wednesday, with the government and protesters seeking to project strength at rival May Day rallies.

“There’s no turning back,” Juan Guaidó, the opposition leader, told supporters in Caracas, the capital, where tear gas fired by riot police officers shrouded some protest sites. “Despite the repression, we’re still here.”

There were reports late in the day that armed pro-government forces used live fire against some protesters in Altamira, part of a Caracas area where the opposition is strong. The extent of injuries was not immediately clear, but at least one journalist was struck by shotgun pellets.

Thousands of Guaidó’s supporters in Caracas and elsewhere heeded his call to demonstrate, although not enough to meet his promise to stage “the biggest march in history.” Still, his ability to remain at large and to rally supporters — after his attempt to recruit the military to his side sputtered on Tuesday — underlined the weaknesses in the government of his opponent, President Nicolás Maduro.

Guaidó called on Venezuelan workers to begin “rolling strikes” starting Thursday, building to a general strike later in the month. It was unclear how much pressure that would apply since most companies already operate at minimum capacity after 5 years of recession.

The protest against Maduro on May Day, was a test for Guaidó in his ambition to claim the leadership of a country suffering from a crumbling economy that has left the population lacking food and medical care.

Across town in central Caracas, thousands of Maduro’s supporters dressed in red marched along the main highway toward the presidential palace. Most appeared to be retirees or public sector workers. Many were brought in from across the country by public buses that stretched for miles on the side of the highway.

It was one of the biggest pro-government demonstrations in Caracas in months, underlining the government’s desire to portray strength and tenacity after the failed uprising.

Maduro has said he will not back down.

“We are over the shock and surprise, and now we will take this all on with nerves of steel,” he said in a televised address Tuesday night.

2019 New York Times News Service