Has the coup begun in Venezuela? Riots and tear gas in the streets of Caracas

The situation in Venezuela has been simmering for well over a year now, seemingly settling down into a stalemate between dictator Nicolas Maduro and self-declared interim President Juan Guaido. This morning that situation may be coming to a boil. Guaido appeared at an air force base with some troops, calling for a “military uprising” to remove Maduro from power once and for all. In response, Maduro’s spokesman said that the government was in the process of putting down “a small coup.” (Associated Press)

Venezuela’s government said it is putting down a small coup attempt by military “traitors” working with right-wing opponents.

Information Minister Jorge Rodriguez’s comments on Twitter came after opposition leader Juan Guaidó called for a military uprising in a video that showed him surrounded by heavily armed soldiers and accompanied by detained activist Leopoldo Lopez at a Caracas air base.

The initial coverage from reporters on the ground there leaves it unclear as to just how much of a “coup” this is. To pull it off, Guaido would need a substantial volume of the military backing his play or at least standing down and letting his supporters see how far they can get. Thus far, all we’re seeing in terms of military support is being described as “several heavily armed soldiers backed by a single armored vehicle.”

Not for nothing, but three or four soldiers and an armored personnel carrier aren’t going to be enough to remove Maduro. That’s particularly true when you consider that the dictator now has hundreds of Russian special forces troops and aircraft in Caracas that could be deployed on short notice, plus his militias and whatever portion of the Venezuelan military that’s still loyal to him. If the Venezuelan troops are going to rise up in support of Guaido they’ll have to make up their minds very quickly.

In response, Maduro’s government is reportedly shutting down access to social media. Blacking out communications and media coverage is a go-to play for dictators, so that doesn’t come as much of a surprise.

This is an incredibly risky play for Guaido unless he’s really turned most of the military over to his side. Maduro already got the country’s high court to strip Guaido of his immunity as leader of the National Assembly and has obviously been waiting for the chance to take his rival out. By declaring a coup and issuing a call to the military, Maduro now has the perfect excuse to declare Guaido a traitor and order his arrest. If that happens, once Guaido is behind bars and away from all the television cameras, the rebellion could be over before it even begins.

We’ll update this thread as the situation warrants.

UPDATE: (Jazz) CNN is reporting that people have begun taking to the streets in Caracas and other cities, though how many people are joining the protests remains unclear. There’s still no word as to whether or not any other military units are backing Guaido. Maduro’s spokesperson is saying that “all military garrisons support President Maduro.”

Check out this video from Caracas via Twitter. Note the soldiers wearing blue armbands on their uniforms. This has reportedly become a symbol of the resistance in the Venezuelan military. If you start seeing a lot of them there could be an actual coup in motion.