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Venezuela’s Maduro says coup attempt thwarted

Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro says a coup attempt by a small faction of the military has been defeated, thanking the armed forces for continued loyalty to him.

Sitting alongside senior military and political leaders, Maduro said in a televised speech late on Tuesday that the group of military personnel supporting opposition figures Leopoldo Lopez and Juan Guaido had been defeated.

“The empire seeks to attack and overthrow a legitimate government to enslave Venezuela,” Maduro said. “I want to congratulate the Military High Command for its courage in defending peace.”

He said Guaido and Lopez were seeking to spark an armed confrontation that might be used as a pretext for foreign military intervention, but “loyal and obedient” members of the country’s armed forces had put down the mutiny within hours after it started early on Tuesday morning.

“I want to congratulate you for the firm, loyal and courageous attitude with which you have led the defeat of the small group that tried to fill Venezuela with violence,” Maduro added.

He said that there only remained a small group of plotters who had chosen “the path of betrayal … [and] handed their souls over to the coup-mongering far right.”

During the coup, Guaido, who has declared himself “interim president” of the country, claimed in a video message recorded at an unknown location that Maduro no longer enjoyed the backing of Venezuela’s armed forces.

He also claimed that “a peaceful rebellion,” not an attempted military coup, was underway and called on people to take to the streets on Wednesday to continue what he called the final stage of “Operation Freedom.”

But Maduro said the opposition had “failed in their plan. They failed in their call, because the people of Venezuela want peace.”

Early on Tuesday, a group of Venezuelan armed troops accompanying Guaido clashed with soldiers at an anti-government rally in the capital, Caracas. Gunfire was heard, and more than 100 people were reported wounded.