Return to Transcripts main page
CNN LIVE EVENT/SPECIAL
CNN International: Attempted Coup Underway In Venezuela. Aired 10-11a ET
Aired April 30, 2019 - 10:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
[10:00:00] ROBYN CURNOW, CNN ANCHOR: This is CNN. I'm Robyn Curnow and we are watching this very fast moving events taking place in Venezuela. An attempted coup is underway right now in Caracas. Now, a few hours ago opposition figure Juan Guaido called on his supporters and the military to topple the regime of Nicolas Maduro.
Well, now, Guaido's supporters are flocking to Caracas' air force base. Guaido appeared flanked by men in uniform with another key opposition figure, Leopoldo Lopez, who's supposed to be under house arrest by his side. We also know in an early tweet, Guaido issued a call to supporters to stand with him immediately and take to the streets.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
JUAN GUAIDO, VENEZUELAN OPPOSITION LEADER(through interpreter): Today, brave soldiers, brave patriots, brave men loyal to the Constitution have heard our call. We have finally met on the streets of Venezuela. Operation liberty, the health and freedom committees, I invite them to activate immediately. I invite them to immediately cover the streets of Venezuela. The 1st of May has started today, the definitive end to the usurpation has started today.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
CURNOW: We're going to join now Eric Farnsworth, Vice President of the Council of the Americas and Americas Society. Joining me now Eric, we've seen these live pictures from the streets of Caracas, people seem to be throwing rocks. They are burning things on the streets. There's black smoke. What do you make of these events that are taking place right now?
ERIC FARNSWORTH, VICE PRESIDENT, COUNCIL OF THE AMERICAS AND AMERICAS SOCIETY: Well, Robyn, thanks for having me on. This is a dramatic escalation of situation that's been deteriorating for sometime in Venezuela. Juan Guaido, the interim president had called for protest for May 1st and this is a really beginning of those protests. I think the bringing out Leopoldo Lopez who had been under house arrest for several years really is a dramatic, symbolic gesture by the interim government and it's really being used to try to galvanize the street now to rise up and Guaido has been saying overthrow the Maduro regime.
CURNOW: So is this the fall of Maduro? Are we watching the beginning of a new phase more particularly the end phase? FARNSWORTH: Well, I don't know. There have been several efforts already to try to get Maduro to leave the country or out of power and those have not been successful. So I'm not sure we can say whether this one will succeed or not. Certainly, we're in early time.
Having said that, the Maduro regime is clearly going to respond. They're going to react. I would not be surprised if they use violence to try to suppress the protesters, so this is probably going to have to play itself out. But it is absolutely an attempt by the Guaido interim government to force the issue and cause Maduro to leave power.
CURNOW: As we look at these pictures, we've got two cameras up, two parts of Caracas. Do we know how widespread this is?
FARNSWORTH: Well, at this point, we don't. Certainly, Caracas is the center point as it generally is for these sorts of things. Although Venezuela is a large country, it's diverse, and the western part of the country has been fairly restive, actually, over the past several months. And so I would not be surprised to begin to get reports out of the western part of the country. So really State Tachira, State Merida, places like that, the border Colombia, that you might see some additional efforts to try to nationalize what at this point is a Caracas urban effort.
CURNOW: These are dramatic pictures. There certainly been dramatic events. How much has international support played into this?
FARNSWORTH: Well, I don't know how much it's played into the specific effort today. But clearly, the unified support of the United States, the Lima Group, most of Europe, Japan certainly and other countries around the world has shown Guaido that he does have international support and were he to take dramatic steps that the support of much of the international community would be with him, at least rhetorically.
Having said that, certainly China, Russia, Cuba, Iran, Turkey, sort of a rogue's gallery of countries clearly remained supportive of Maduro and so I don't think we're seeing the very end of this just yet.
CURNOW: OK, standby, Eric Farnsworth. Thank you so much bringing us all of your expertise.
CURNOW: With that in mind, I do want to go to Havana, to Cuba. Patrick Oppmann is there. You're also watching these images, dramatic events, no doubt, Cuban leaders and the Cuban government also watching this with interest. What do you think their thoughts are at this moment?
[10:05:06] PATRICK OPPMANN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: You've got a completely divided region, don't you Robyn? Here in Cuba a socialist ally that as well that has received billions of dollars over the years, decades really, from Venezuela, there's a lot of concern, of course. Cuba has doctors, sports trainers and more importantly today intelligence and military advisors helping to prop up the embattled government of Nicolas Maduro. And then you have countries around the region like in Panama, like in Colombia that are essentially sick and tired of the wave of migrants and refugees leaving Venezuela millions of - Venezuelans that have walked out of their country showing up in neighboring countries, essentially with nothing, begging for assistance. And those countries are backing Juan Guaido saying that essentially the government of Nicolas Maduro does not have a future and it's dragging down the fortunes of the region.
I was in Caracas just about a month ago and spoke with Juan Guaido about how far he was willing to go. And he said he realized that either he was going to be president or martyr or end up in jail that he - when he declared himself at the beginning this year to be president of Venezuela saying that Nicolas Maduro was an illegitimate president that have been elected in a fraudulent election that by doing that, Juan Guaido was essentially daring the government of Nicolas Maduro to arrest or kill him.
And he said that it was a risk he was willing to take and we have seen this game of intimidation, Robyn, where they have arrested supporters of Guaido. Some of his closest advisors. They have not gone after him just yet. He was one time briefly arrested. Nicolas Maduro himself said that was a mistake. They have not wanted - it seems to anger the U.S. government to force the U.S. government to take stronger action.
But you see those images today of Juan Guaido posing in front of active military, our military, their faces uncovered who have risen up against the government of Nicolas Maduro and it just seems like a red line that Juan Guaido has crossed and that there's no going back now.
CURNOW: Patrick Oppmann there in Havana. Thank you so much. Standby as well, Patrick, we'll come back to you in just a moment as we're looking at these live images from Caracas. Rafael Romo though is joining me now. Rafael, you have also extensively covered the region you continue to do so like Patrick Oppmann. Your thoughts at this moment as you look at these images on the streets of Caracas and Patrick Oppmann are making a very good point there, has Juan Guaido crossed a red line here? Is he daring the Venezuelan authorities, Maduro's government to take a next step? Is he daring them to erase him? The big question then is what would the U.S. to?
RAFAEL ROMO, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Yes. Most definitely, Robyn, and let me tell you, I had an opportunity to interview Juan Guaido recently who, by the way, is recognized by more than 50 countries as the legitimate interim president of Venezuela. And he told me that his movement has three very specific goals ahead of them.
Number one is what they call the end of the usurpation. They consider the government of President Nicolas Maduro an illegitimate government and a usurper. Number two is the creation of a transition government by which an assembly would name somebody to be temporarily president of Venezuela, presumably himself. And then number three is calling for democratic and transparent elections.
Now, they were not clear at the time that I spoke with him exactly how they were going to be able to do that. And what has happened this morning appears to be the first step in that direction. For a long time, Juan Guaido, has said that there is a large number of military officials and many soldiers around Venezuela throughout the country that are fed up with the regime of Nicolas Maduro and that favor his movement, that favor a change in Venezuela.
And for many weeks, for many months, we were wondering if they would ever do something about it. Well, this morning, it appears that they have done something about it and it is very indicative, Robyn. When we saw this morning that Leopoldo Lopez who has been a political prisoner for years now was able to leave his home, he was under house arrest, and freely move to the military base name La Carlota in Caracas, the capital.
Now, we see these images but the real question now, Robyn, is what's going to happen to the militias that had been armed for years by the government of President Nicolas Maduro and who were supposed to come in the aid of the government and the armed forces in a situation like this. They're very dangerous. They're very armed. They're not trained, so violent can erupt in any moment and it is definitely one factor to consider when we talk about the situation as a whole, Robyn.
[10:09:57] CURNOW: I want to break down some of the things you mentioned. Let's just first talk about these images of the military and to what extent there might be a split in the military. I think the very key point, are we seeing live gunfire here? I don't know if my producers can confirm that, but certainly looks like some sort of of escalation taking place on the streets.
Just to go back to you, Rafael, there were not generals standing behind Juan Guaido in those images this morning. That is key.
ROMO: Yes, absolutely and you have to understand the context here, Robyn, because for many years, Nicolas Maduro has gone out of his way to make sure that the generals are happy. What do I mean by that? A lot of salary increases, a lot of benefits, promotions. Venezuela has by one estimate something around 2,000 generals. Meaning, a lot of people who probably didn't deserve to be promoted were promoted just to make sure that they stayed on the side of the government.
And so it has been very difficult for Juan Guaido to break into the higher ranks. However, we are hearing reports this morning that in other parts of Venezuela, some of the higher ranked officials are siding with Guaido. We have not yet been able to confirm those reports but as you can understand this situation is very fluid and you see people on the streets.
And what we're seeing right now is Caracas, but we're still waiting to hear from places in Venezuela that had been very active against Nicolas Maduro. I'm talking about cities like San Cristobal for example in Tachira State bordering with Venezuela. There's a very strong opposition there and so it remains to be seen what they're going to do there.
The risk here is that a lot of the supporters of Juan Guaido do not have the military power to face a trained and heavily armed army contingent and so the risk is that there could be a lot of injuries and even death, Robyn.
CURNOW: OK. We're watching these images. It looks like groups of supporters, protesters with their faces covered, they've been - we know that tear gas has been fired. These are images out of Caracas. They seem to be throwing stones, Molotov cocktails at an armored vehicle there on the other side of the fence. Let's just listen in.
I want to go to Jorge Luis Perez Valery. He is in Caracas, a reporter for CNN. What are you hearing and seeing at the moment there on the ground?
JORGE LUIS PEREZ VALERY, EN ESPANOL CORRESPONDENT: We are right in the municipality where things are happening, Robyn, and it's a very tense situation. We came here from the place that we are right now some of the gunshots that has been firing from that place in recent hours. The situation is set at about 5:00 am in the morning when we started receiving reports about situation happening in that place.
Very close to a military base in the center of the city. Immediately we saw through social media reports Juan Guaido recognize as the interim president of this country by the U.S. and several other nations. And also Leopoldo Lopez, one of the main figures of the Venezuelan opposition who was arrested at his house. Now, he's out of there supporting this strategy that Juan Guaido is calling for.
He's saying that today is the day that Operacion Libertad, liberty operation has started to get Maduro out of power. And the situation in the street, it's quite tense especially this part of the city where we have seen military deployed, part of it supporting Juan Guaido other part is still supporting Nicolas Maduro. The thing is this is still happening and there's a lot of tension in the city. It's a city that one part is paralyzed as the people didn't go to work, businesses didn't open but in the other hand, there are people that are going to the streets to support each of their side.
For one side we have followers of Juan Guaido going to the street to go for his strategy, but on the other hand we have also officials from the Nicolas Maduro administration calling their followers to go to the streets to support their Bolivarian Revolution, Robyn.
CURNOW: I don't know if you can confirm for us the images that we're seeing here. But what we have been seeing playing out over the past few hours, we have seen a number of incidents short lived at times of shots exchange between both sides. These images that we're seeing now, if you can just talk us through them. What is the location of the cameras that we're seeing here. We're seeing Molotov cocktails being thrown at the Venezuelan military. Is this by the airbase or is it another location?
[10:15:06] VALERY: This location is right in the middle of the city, right in the geographical center of Caracas. It's close to military base name La Carlota, which is a military airbase here in the region - in the capital region. And what you're seeing in one side of those bridges that you see in the images are military supporting Juan Guaido, the interim precedent recognized by the United States and several other nations. And they have been there deployed. On the other side of that bridge, you can see a military front there. La Carlota Air Base also, let's say, confronting this other part. What we have seen is that apparently some allege groups from the government of Nicolas Maduro, some motorcycle riders appear there expressing their support to Nicolas Maduro.
In that moment some gunshots could be heard and also we have been seeing people, personnel, military personnel from the military airbase throwing tear gas bomb to these places where not only Juan Guaido and Leopoldo Lopez as opposition leaders to Nicolas Maduro are staying there, but also supporters. Some of their supporters in the surrounding areas that has decided to go to the streets to support this movement.
CURNOW: And just talk us through the numbers of people we're seeing here. When we've had protests, when we've covered protests over the last few months, the streets of Caracas have been overflowing thousands, 10s of thousands of people have taken to the streets in protest against Mr. Maduro as well as in support of Mr. Maduro. This looks like far less people to the kind of protests we've seen in the months before.
VALERY: Yes. What we are seeing right now is not a massive - for now, is not a massive amount of people, but it's an increasing number of people that has been showing up to support their - to express their support for Juan Guaido and this is increasing for now in this part of the city. We are also having reports of people according to what Diosdado Cabello, one of the officials from Nicolas Maduro administration said that are going to gather the west part of the city with precedential policies, because they say they're going to defend Nicolas Maduro from any coup d'etat.
That's how they're calling this movement that Juan Guaido is leading right now. We cannot talk at this point of numbers but what we have been seeing during the morning is an increasing presence of supporters for this strategy for Juan Guaido.
CURNOW: Jorge Luis Perez Valery is sitting there - standing there in the streets nearby the events that you're seeing here live on your screens. We'll come back to you in just a moment to take us through. Great reporting, thank you so much for explaining what is happening on the ground.
Let's stay in Caracas, journalist Stefano Pozzebon is there as well. You've been following events, you're also on the ground when you saw a number of skirmishes involving live gunfire. Just talk us through the events. Stefano, can you hear me? It's Robyn here. You're live on air.
STEFANO POZZEBON, JOURNALIST: Yes, Robyn. We're seeing again this intense stand down between the forces who's still loyal with Nicolas Maduro hunker down inside of the military air base here in the heart of Caracas and the opposition (pro forces) in the outskirt of the base (inaudible) an effort to defend is still going on. Military forces throw rubber bullets and especially tear gas, a lot of tear gas are being shot right now here in the center of Caracas and are met by anti Maduro protesters with (inaudible) and molotov and rocks.
Next to me are (inaudible) of protesters who shout, "We want freedom." And demand an immediate resignation of Nicolas Maduro. But the core of the military base seem from our perspective, from the point of view that we are at seems to be in the hands of those military members loyal to the embattled President Nicolas Maduro. So it's an intense and volatile situation here in Caracas and we're seeing military men, men in uniform on those sites.
Right in front of me now I can see two members of the National Guards trying to hear messages to their companions in arms who are still inside the base and urging them to defect against Nicolas Maduro. An intense and volatile situation and there's still very much developing, Robyn.
[10:20:12] CURNOW: And just so you know I know that you're there on the ground and also that internet and communications have been difficult, so I don't know if you know that Nicolas Maduro has just tweeted. I want you to read out some of this tweet to you. Mr. Maduro is saying, "Nerves of steel! I have spoken with the commanders of the country who have expressed their total loyalty to the people, to the Constitution and to the Fatherland." Nicolas Maduro continues, "I call for maximum popular mobilization to ensure the victory of peace." He then says, "We will win." That is the tweet out there on your screen.
Stefano Pozzebon there on the ground. He is calling for the mobilization of these militias. What is that mean? Do you think they will keep that call? Is that key?
POZZEBON: Yes. Robyn?
CURNOW: Can you hear me, Stefano?
POZZEBON: Yes, Robyn.
CURNOW: We're hearing Mr. Maduro calling for a mobilization. He seems to be trying to escalate this confrontation.
POZZEBON: Yes. And we have to remember, Robyn, tomorrow May 1st International Workers' Day, the key fight for any any social governments around the world. Nicolas Maduro still remain - there's no exception. Both Guaido and Maduro has called for their supporter to go out on the street for tomorrow to land and show their support for the two leadership, the two jostling presidencies here in Caracas, Maduro on one side and Juan Guaido on the other.
All of these events have been precipitated by what happened in the early hours of today with the military uprising right in the heart of the Venezuelan capital and with members of the military joining the side of opposition leader Juan Guaido.
CURNOW: Stefano Pozzebon, reporting live from Caracas in the middle of those scenes that you're seeing on your television sets right now. They are dramatic images coming out of Venezuela. We'll continue to monitor those images. We have reporters on the ground, stay with us. You're watching CNN.
[10:24:31] CURNOW: You're watching CNN. I'm Robyn Curnow and we're watching dramatic events taking place in Caracas and Venezuela. I do want to go to Washington because we've had number of tweets, a number of comments from senior White House officials as well as from other officials within D.C. Kylie Atwood joins me now with more on that.
We're certainly seeing the Trump administration put their thumb on the scale here.
KYLIE ATWOOD, CNN U.S. SECURITY REPORTER: We are in quite swift in their support of Maduro - sorry, of Guaido this morning. They are coming out. Every single leader in the National Security realm of President Trump, we've heard from this morning. The Vice President saying that the U.S. supports the loving people and the National Assembly as they're taking the streets saying, "We are with you."
That is a tweet that he sent out this morning. We also got a tweet from Secretary of State Pompoe saying that the U.S. supports the Venezuelan people in their quest for freedom and democracy. But most importantly, we have them really backing this attempted military coup. We heard from National Security Adviser John Bolton in a tweet also. I'd like to read that to you saying that to Juan Guido, the National Assembly and all of the freedom loving people of Venezuela who are taking to the streets today in operation libertad, estamos con ustedes, oops, I'm sorry, I'm reading the Vice President's there and you guys are looking at Bolton's.
But Bolton saying that the U.S. stands with the people of Venezuela and that the National Assembly should be backed by the National Army, essentially saying there that this should be something that continues on. Now, the U.S. has backed Guaido in the form of sanctions that have gone over gone after Maduro and those who are supporting Maduro just last week targeting the foreign minister of Venezuela.
But now we are seeing them back more forceful military hopeful intervention that Guaido is leading. The question, however, is can Guaido get enough support from the military because they have been up until this point backing Maduro?
CURNOW: Yes. And that's the key point, not just the military but the generals. The senior leadership of the Venezuelan military. That is the key. We did see some junior officers and National Guard troops side with Guaido in the past few hours, but whether or not the senior leadership flips that is very much the question. We know from our reporters who have covered the region extensively and who are there on the ground are saying that this is the next phase, what does this mean. It's certainly Mr. Guaido's boldest move yet.
There was some analysis, some suggestion that he might be trying to push the hand of the Maduro government, perhaps even try and get himself arrested. The question then would be what would Washington do? ATWOOD: Right. And at this point we have not seen military intervention from Washington. Now, the White House has consistently said that that is an option and basically hung it out there to threaten Maduro the possibility that the U.S. could come in and try and get him out of leadership. But they haven't done that yet, so the question is would they consider doing that now that Guaido has already started this attempted coup.
We haven't heard a definite yes or no this morning on that. But what we are hearing is continued support and Senator Marco Rubio who is very close to the White House has been following these developments extremely closely this morning. And he has encouraged the members of the National Army in Venezuela to keep going, to keep supporting Guaido. He said this morning that they could write history in the hours and days ahead. The question is can they do that alone or would they need some more support from outside actors like the U.S.
CURNOW: Either way, Nicolas Maduro has tweeted we will win and he says nerves of steel, exclamation mark. So these images taking place live images there from Caracas. Kylie Atwood, thank you so much for giving us the perspective from Washington. Our coverage of this attempted coup Venezuela continues. Opposition leader Juan Guaido says, "The time is now to end the role of Nicolas Maduro." What is taking place on the streets. We have reporters live. Stay with us.
CURNOW: Thanks for joining us. This is CNN. I'm Robyn Curnow. Our breaking news in Venezuela this hour. An attempted coup underway right now in Caracas. Crowds are swarming the streets. You can see live pictures here. Juan Guaido standing on what appears to be on the back of a truck there. Leopoldo Lopez is with him as well who was released after house arrest.
They are near this airbase where we've seen a number of clashes, violent clashes involving protesters, supporters of Mr. Guaido as well as with the military. We will try to monitor if he says anything here, but I have Rafael Romo standing by also watching these images. Let's listen in.
Rafael Romo, you're joining me now. We're looking at these images here. Just talk us through what we're seeing. We're going to try and get these translated. It's difficult to hear what he's saying, but the image in itself and the sound - let's listen to what they're saying, they're chanting.
ROMO: Robyn, if you hear me people are chanting, "Yes, we can."
CURNOW: Rafael, continue. Let's listen in and talk us through if you can pick up what they're saying on the ground, Rafael Romo.
ROMO: Yes. People are chanting, "Yes, we can. Yes, we can."
CURNOW: And what we see here is Guaido getting onto a higher part, a higher level so he can address this crowd. It seems certainly to be swelling. We have a camera in the midst of it. ROMO: Yes. And Robyn, just let me give you an idea of where he is.
This is Plaza Altamira. It's a bastion of the opposition. He's about to speak.
[10:34:32] JUAN GUAIDO, VENEZUELAN OPPOSITION LEADER(through interpreter): We count with the support or the majority of Venezuelans. For many months, we have talked to the armed forces. For many years, we have talked to the armed forces and today it's clear to us that the armed forces are with the Venezuelan people and not with the dictator.
Today, we know that all Venezuelan, all of them are in favor or change and today we know that all Venezuelans and also including the armed forces are in favor of the Constitution. And today what the soldiers are doing not just in Caracas but throughout the whole Venezuela is getting to the side of the Constitution is who is against Maduro.
The coup d'etat is being done and stage by those who use paramilitaries to attack us. The soldiers are here to defend our people, our demonstration. Peace, it will always be the way we have been doing it peacefully in accordance with our Constitution. It is an appeal to the military due to persecution and harassment they don't take the step.
Today, we're here and we're going to stand firm here and we're asking the army and the military to join this little fight and struggle for the Venezuelan people.
So those who can send a text message, please call everybody and ask everybody to come and join us. We're going to stand firm and we're going to achieve another step to end the usurpation of power. The military are here, but we need more people to join us. We're going to stand here, everybody should come here and join us in Altamira in this moment as operation liberty and operation freedom has begun.
So we're going to stand here together asking and demanding the military to join this demonstration. Let's go to (Francisco Stadium). Freedom. Freedom. Freedom. Can we do it or can we not do it? Are we able to pull this off or not? We are here. Strength.
CURNOW: Juan Guaido there making comments to the cheering crowd surrounding him. Stefano Pozzebon is there on the ground as well listening in. What is the mood like? What is the feeling and what did people say as he was speaking?
POZZEBON: Yes, Robyn. What people here are saying are waiting for the answers that Juan Guaido has been speaking. Guaido has urged that yet again more people to join and crucially more members of the military, Robyn, to join the forces with those who have already defected. Again, for embattled President Nicolas Maduro and the people around us, next to the military air base that is becoming the crucial point of these upraising in the heart of Caracas are asking how many other people have joined, how many other military units have joined these upraising.
Because there is definite - the significance of seeing military men next - stand arm by arm with Juan Guaido after the opposition leader for months have called for the arms to defect against Maduro, but it's still yet to be understood how vast the support for Guaido is within the armed forces, how many other units has joined these upraising crucially, how many other units around Venezuela, around the countryside, around the rest of the country, this is upraising that is only concerning the center of the capital. (And we find) Nicolas Maduro and the members also of the Venezuelan government have been quoted and speaking on television saying that the (situation is calm) and this is just a little number of military men who join forces with Guaido.
The situation is still very much developing because we are still yet to understand how vast these upraising effectively (be), Robyn.
[10:40:41] CURNOW: Yes. And I think that's the important question. We are seeing to the left of our screen clashes that are taking place. We've seen Molotov cocktails been thrown at the military outside the base. We've seen rocks being thrown. I think we also - there was at some point live fire exchanged. But in terms of what we were hearing Juan Guaido say they're a little bit earlier, he asked for more people to join the streets, he asked people to text or call people to tell them to come onto the streets and support. Is that a sign of strength or weakness that a few hours into this that he's still asking for people to come out and support him?
POZZEBON: Well, that could be definitely as a sign that the plan is not really going to Maduro. Now, we (honesty though)and we still don't know how many our military units around the country are joining their forces and then it's crucial. The other crucial aspect that is how many people not only from the center of Caracas and not only that it's traditionally against the rule of Nicolas Maduro traditionally, (sideline) with the opposition, but crucially how many people will come from the slums, from the outskirt of Caracas, these barrios, every corner here in Venezuela.
How many of those who have been historically a loyal supporters of Nicolas Maduro (and he got a task of who will) challenged before him? How many of those will join these military and to do an upraising because one thing is for certain they have the vast amount - the vast majority of Venezuela is suffering because of the economic conditions, it is incredible how to describe the collapse that have taken over this once wealthy nation, but (as yet in the cities), Guaido (has the) support of the population to push or change in the presidential (partner), Robyn. And so far ...
CURNOW: Stefano, I just want you to just talk us through, Stefano, how many soldiers or National Guard troops, how many of them have you seen with your own eyes in terms of the crowds that we're looking at now, they look like young men wearing t-shirts, covering their faces, how many of those are actually from the military that you've seen?
POZZEBON: We have seen handful of soldiers, not more, I would say more than 50 who sidelined with Juan Guaido. Most of them were wearing the white blue colored armband that seems to denote that they are taking part in this upraising and they were armed with semi- automatic weapons. We are seeing AR-15s and the standard military weapon, the M-16 and some automatic weapons.
We've seen, as we've said, not the vast majority, not a huge number of military. Most of them are saying that they are in touch with their companions, brothers in arms in the rest of the country that are also upraising, but right now from center of Caracas the communication are so difficult, they are still yet to understand how many people have actually - how many military men and women have actually - are taking part in this upraising today, Robyn.
CURNOW: OK. Thank you so much reporting there live from Caracas, Stefano Pozzebon. I want to go now, standby, Stefano, we'll come to you in just a moment. Rafael Romo is joining me. Rafael is our Latin Affairs Editor. You've been also in Venezuela a number of times. You've been reporting on this for the past few years. How key is it what you hearing Stefano saying that he hadn't seen that many military, the fact that they were any, is that important? And the fact that Mr. Guaido is still trying to call for people to come out on the streets and support him. Again, is that a sign of weakness or strength?
[10:44:36] ROMO: Well, it goes back to what we were talking about before. For many years, President Nicolas Maduro has made sure that he stuffs the pockets of the generals and so the generals are making a calculation what's best for me, what side should I go. But at the same time, it is very indicative to me, Robyn, the fact that Juan Guaido has been able to move freely, more or less, from the military airbase of La Carlota to Plaza Altamira or Plaza Francia, its official name, without any interruptions, without any military or police or security forces stopping him.
That means that at least in that part of Caracas, the capital, the police, the National Guard are siding with Guaido. Now, we are hearing appeals on both sides. President Nicolas Maduro was tweeting that he's spoken to all generals around the country and that they're siding with him. We have really no evidence of that at this point, because we're seeing these images not only from Caracas, but other parts of the country.
And so you see this chaotic situation in which both sides are claiming that they have the support of the armed forces, but the reality is that it remains to be seen. Now, what we have seen in the last few months is that more and more soldiers have come to the side of Juan Guaido and many have left the country and gone to places like Colombia. The rank and file, it remains to be seen again, but these images tell us that it's a very chaotic situation.
We see uniformed soldiers in those images and Juan Guaido being able to protest openly and freely in the middle of Caracas, Robyn.
CURNOW: Yes, it's certainly chaotic. It is some sort of uprising and attempted coup and we heard Juan Guaido saying that can we do it? Can we pull it off? And those question marks still very much in the air, in the very thick tear gas filled air of Venezuela. Rafael Romo, thanks so much. Is this a tipping point? It is unclear what is taking place, where this is going, but certainly chaotic scenes there on the ground in Venezuela. You're watching CNN. More after the break.
[10:49:03] CURNOW: You're watching CNN. I'm Robyn Curnow. These images coming to us out of Caracas, Venezuela, where an attempted coup is underway. You're seeing Molotov cocktails being thrown there at a military vehicle. We know that shots have been fired and there's certainly an uprising taking place on the streets outside and nearby a key airbase.
We've also heard from Juan Guaido flanked by Leopoldo Lopez and other opposition figure. They have been speaking to the crowd, calling for more people to join protests there on the ground. I want to go now to Dan Restrepo. He was the Director of Western Hemisphere Affairs at the U.S. National Security Council. He's also a CNN Espanol Contributor. Dan, great to have you with us.
You work very closely in the region, particularly under the Obama administration. These images that we're seeing now, what is key for you the fact that there are no generals or senior leadership on the streets? What does that tell you?
[10:49:55] DAN RESTREPO, CNN EN ESPANOL CONTRIBUTOR: It tells us one of two things at the moment. There's a lot of kind of fog of war, if you will, or fog of an uprising. I think two things to watch are whether you have a real break within the military leadership, there's no sign of that yet. That is one of two ways that you can begin to break down the power structures that have supported the Maduro regime.
The other way is if you can turn out enough people, if Juan Guaido can turn enough people out onto the street, and post some sort of physical threat, if you will, a peaceful but physical threat to something strategic in Caracas, something symbolically important or something strategically important to the armed forces that would force the hands of the Maduro regime to deploy troops that they're not quite sure what they will do in that situation.
So one of those two things has to happen. If this is going to kind of continue the momentum necessary to kind of break the power structures around Nicholas Maduro.
CURNOW: And when you talk about momentum, I think that's the key point. What happens next? How restrained is the Venezuelan government being right now? And also key from one analyst suggesting and also with conversations our reporters have with Juan Guaido is that in many ways has he and is he trying to force the hand of the Venezuelans? Is he trying to create a situation where he gets arrested? What happens next? What do you think is the game plan here by Guaido?
RESTREPO: I'm not sure what the game plan, Guaido's game plan is. I think he's trying to force one of these two decision points that I just talked about. He's trying to put enough pressure on the power structures within the Maduro regime to exploit what are small and perhaps not so small features that we've seen or we've seen hints of and, again, there's multiple ways of doing that. If he's already done it, if he's gotten generals on his side, which
again, we don't have much information to suggest that he has to force a real debate within the Maduro regime as to whether to capture Juan Guaido, they have not captured him, I think that has been a strategic decision on the part of the Venezuelans to date or if he can turn enough people out onto the street.
Those are different ways to create, again, that power dynamics with it, try to exploit the power dynamics around Nicolas Maduro as sanctions kind of tighten around the leadership of the Maduro regime, start to take away the resources that they've been living off of. So yes I think he is trying to force the hand. There's multiple ways that he can force the hand.
Unfortunately, to date, although the Maduro regime is a brutal one, it has been strategically brutal in it's repression. You have not seen widespread repression when you've turned out lots when the opposition or Juan Guaido has turned out a lot of people onto the streets. It's been very precise repression meant to send signals to folks but, again, without forcing to too many troops for the regime to deploy too many people that they're not quite sure what they will do when faced with their fellow Venezuelan citizens in the streets of Caracas or elsewhere in the country.
CURNOW: And Dan, I want to talk about the broader geopolitics here. We can talk about support for the opposition from the U.S. in particular and many other countries that have recognized him. But also, crucially, the Maduro regime has support from Turkey, from China, from Russia, also Cuba. We know the Russians have potentially sent in military hardware as well. How does that play out? What is the concern there?
RESTREPO: I think the most important players here on the Maduro side are actually the Cubans, kind of on a day to day basis. Unfortunately, they're very good at repression. They've had 60 years to practice in Cuba and they've gotten good at it. And unfortunately that has allowed Maduro to do what he's done over the course of the last several months, which, again, is the strategic use of repression without creating a kind of confrontation that might create more tension within the ranks of the armed elements and support of the Maduro regime.
China is important financially, Russia is important financially and politically, but tactically in day to day, I think the Cubans are key. The Turks have been important as a source of illicit revenue in terms of some gold transactions that have been going on. But the real players here are the Cubans. They've been present in Venezuela for quite some time. They have greater numbers on the ground, if you will, than do the Chinese or the Russians or the Turks or anyone else.
So you have that array of international support against - and it's important, the 50 countries in the international community who supported Juan Guaido as the legitimate interim president of the country, it's not just the United States. But at a tactical level, the Cuban support has been and I think will continue to be crucial in the coming hours, days, and perhaps weeks and months. CURNOW: Dan Restrepo there. Thank you so much for your analysis. We
have our bureau in Havana certainly monitoring events and we'll continue to go live to them as well as we watch these events take place in Caracas. Dan, thank you so much. And I want to go quickly to Jorge Luis Perez Valery. He joins us now from Caracas.
We've just got a minute or so, and I just want you to sum up the mood, the sense that you're getting there on the ground for us.
[10:55:02] VALERY: A lot of expectations, Robyn. People are here now wondering again if this is finally going to have a major outcome for this country since three months ago we saw this new movement leadered by Juan Guaido as President of the National Assembly as interim president recognized by the United States and several other nations. Most of the democracies in the Americas are recognizing him as interim president and now the question is, if by the end of this day, these is going to result in what they are saying, and that is Maduro out of power. For now, we don't have those answers, but facts are still developing here in the capital of Venezuela.
CURNOW: Yes, they certainly are. Thank you so much, Jorge for keeping us up to date on what's going on there. What we do know is that an uprising and clashes have been taking place in Caracas. We also know that attempted coup is underway. CNN will continue to monitor all of these events that are taking place in Venezuela. We have crews on the ground and we will continue to monitor all of this. Thank you so much for watching. I'm Robin Curnow.