It appears the White House is ready to stoke the flames of anti-Maduro unrest following Monday's dramatic failed military revolt launched by 27 low-ranking officers and their subsequent arrests in the Cotiza neighborhood of Caracas, which sparked overnight protests and sporadic clashes with police after opposition leader Juan Guaido made a broad appeal to the military in a speech, urging them to demand Maduro step down. Guaido and other opposition leaders in the National Assembly have declared Wednesday a nation-wide protest day seeking to topple the regime — itself a historic date commemorating the end of Venezuela's military dictatorship in 1958.
On Tuesday US Vice President Mike Pence urged the Venezuelan people to "make your voices heard" in follow-up to Guaido's risky appeal, which appears a continuation of Secretary of State Mike Pompeo's comments throwing the United States' full weight behind Venezuela's opposition seeking to depose President Nicolás Maduro, which he made over a week ago while in the Middle East after Maduro was sworn in to a widely contested six-year second term.
As the good people of Venezuela make your voices heard tomorrow, on behalf of the American people, we say: estamos con ustedes. We are with you. We stand with you, and we will stay with you until Democracy is restored and you reclaim your birthright of Libertad. pic.twitter.com/ThzIAqBoRn— Vice President Mike Pence (@VP) January 22, 2019
VP Pence's words were issued in a video posted to social media wherein he asserted, “Nicolas Maduro is a dictator with no legitimate claim to to power." The video begins with Pence greeting in Spanish “Hola, I’m Mike Pence” but ending with a somewhat grimmer tone: “Vayan con Dios!” or “Go with God.”
Pence also praised Guaido, head of the opposition held National Assembly who previously called himself Venezuela's "legitimate" power, as the "courageous" leader of “the last vestige of democracy in your country,” referencing the legislative body. This week the government-stacked Supreme Court declared it would throw out recent measures by the National Assembly that declared Maduro's presidency illegitimate.
Pence said in the video he was delivering the message on behalf of Trump and the American people. Referencing the planned Wednesday protests, the vice president said:
As you make your voices heard tomorrow, on behalf of the American people, we say to all the good people of Venezuela, ‘Estamos con ustedes,’ we are with you.”
The country remains on edge Tuesday as following the mutiny and subsequent successful government crackdown, which further involved the rebellious unit briefly kidnapping several officials stealing weaponry at a police outpost a mere kilometers from the presidential palace, pockets of anti-Maduro protests were sparked in the capital city demanding the release of the detained soldiers, whose actions the government condemned as "treasonous" and "motivated by the dark interests of the extreme right," according to a statement announced on state TV. Maduro's right-hand man, Diosdado Cabello, also boasted on Twitter while speaking of the rebels: "They were neutralized, surrendered and captured in record time."
Under constitution of #Venezuela Maduro not legitimately elected President. When vacancy exists it is filled by National Assembly President until new election called. Last night a National Guard unit pledged it would follow constitution & regime responded with its own forces. https://t.co/Du8tE1QazP— Marco Rubio (@marcorubio) January 21, 2019
Pence's video remarks calling Maduro a "dictator" and essentially calling for a coup comes after months of both the Trump administration and US Congressional leaders becoming increasingly unrestrained in publicly calling for outright regime change. After Monday's coup attempt Florida Senator Marco Rubio went so far as to encourage more such military defections.
Meanwhile Venezuelan Foreign Minister Arreaza just days ago told Democracy Now that "Nothing that the opposition does is without the permission or authorization of the State Department... They say, 'We have to make consultations with the embassy. We have to make consultations with the Dept of State.'"