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Clashes Erupt in Venezuela After Opposition Leader Guaido Calls on Military to Defect and Civilians to Oust Maduro; CNN Blocked in Venezuela By Government Amid Clashes; New Video Shows Guaido Supporters Entering a Venezuelan Air Base. Aired 3-4p ET

Aired April 30, 2019 - 15:00   ET


ANNOUNCER: This is CNN Breaking News.

RICHARD QUEST, CNN ANCHOR: Good evening to you. I am Richard Quest in New York, and there's plenty of breaking news to bring you tonight concerning


Tonight, there is gunfire on the streets of Caracas as protesters are rising up against Venezuela's President Nicolas Maduro. The opposition is

calling it the final phase of Operation Libertad. Maduro and his ministers are calling it a coup. Juan Guaido who has declared himself Interim

President of the country in January, appeared at dawn, he was flanked by men in fatigues. And he made his boldest play yet to seize power and

outside the regime of Nicolas Maduro.

There have been massive protest, and there have been violent clashes that have erupted in Caracas. In the middle of the crowd is Guaido who calls on

the military to side with his opposition that people are chanting, "Yes, we can."

The President or the current President Nicolas Maduro, who has presided over years an economic decline, insists everything is under control,

perhaps if you look at these pictures, you might think otherwise, because we've been seeing open gun battles on the streets and disturbing scenes

outside the military base.

The next video is extremely graphic, I must warn you. Armored cars drove head on into a crowd of protesters. Some tried to get away. Others stood

firm. One truck later appears to catch fire.

Nicolas Maduro said we will win. On Twitter, Juan Guaido had this to say a little earlier.


JUAN GUAIDO, VENEZUELAN SELF-DECLARED INTERIM PRESIDENT (through translator): The coup d'etat is being done on a stage by those who use

paramilitaries to attack us, the soldiers are here to defend our people. Our demonstration is and 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 are here and we are going to stand firm here. And we are asking the Army and the Military to join this legitimate fight and the struggle

for the Venezuelan people.

So those who can send a text message, please call everybody and ask everybody to come and join us.


QUEST: CNN has just been taken off the air in Venezuela by the government. Isa Soares joins me from London. There's much to do to understand about

today. Why today? What happened that meant today was the day that Guaido did decide to ask for an uprising?

ISA SOARES, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: We don't know, Richard, why today was so significant. We know that tomorrow is first of May, a

national holiday, that he was going to call for protests on the street. I don't know whether he looked at the landscape in Venezuela and perhaps

thought, "I'm not going to get the numbers I wanted."

But what changes -- what has changed in fact is one man and that's Leopoldo Lopez, that figure that you mentioned there. He was under house arrest.

He was the one that is seen by so many within Venezuela as a figure they look up to in terms of voice of freedom, and he signifies so much to so

many Venezuelans. So I do wonder whether Leopoldo Lopez's release or actually taking him out from under house arrest, Richard, whether he

thought perhaps that his presence next to Guaido could shift some of those high-ranking -- the top brass within the military to switch allegiances.

Now, he says he has -- Guaido says he has a support of military officials. But actually, Carlos Vecchio, the U.S. representative for Guaido's

government actually said on CNN just about an hour ago or so, Richard, they only have the support of lower and middle ranking officers. So he doesn't

yet have their support.

As always, when I was there, Richard, it was the same. The rank and file very much supporting him. They said they had enough. They want -- they

can't put food on the table. They can't provide for their children, but nothing has changed.

[15:05:10] QUEST: But if he has rank-and-file military, they're the ones who have to do the fighting. I mean, you can have all the generals that

you like on your side, but if there's nobody to go out to in order to fight?

SOARES: But I think Richard, what we heard from John Bolton, I think he struck a chord. And I think you hit the nail on the head, there is an

element of fear, an element of fear within the military because, of course, the top officials, the top ranking general. There are some 2,000 or so, it

is worth reminding our viewers that support Nicolas Maduro, that have been supporting him, they have been throwing their allegiance behind him, not

just him, but also it started with Chavez, they rule so much of Venezuela's economy, they control pretty much every aspect of industry of Venezuela.

And they obviously -- these younger, junior offices are fearful of what may happen should Guaido not be successful, because after all, Richard, this is

very risky.

QUEST: Isa, we'll be back with you later in the program. Thank you. Stefano Pozzebon is on the ground for us in Caracas. Over the last few

hours, Stefano, we've seen these running battles, with gunfire taking place. Who is fighting who and who seems to have the upper hand?

STEFANO POZZEBON, JOURNALIST: Yes, Richard. Who is fighting who is the key question and we're seeing military members, men in uniform on both

sides. And that, Richard is the new developments of from the ground here in Caracas. We have seen members of the National Guards firing at each

other just a few hours ago.

I have here in my pocket some off the live ammunition that those members of the Military Armed Forces were firing at each other in Altamira Square, the

place where I'm standing right now and the place where Juan Guaido made a pronouncement a few hours ago, there are many members of the civilian

opposition. We haven't seen members of the military anymore since Guaido has left the scene.

But what we're seeing today, Richard, is crucial. And what Isa was pointing at is the presence of lower ranking military officers joining

sides with the opposition.

I was able to speak with a sergeant earlier today, Richard, who told me that discontent had been brewing inside the Army barracks for some time.

But he told me today is the day that we're going to bring the discontent to an explosive point and we're ready to stay put as long as it's necessary

for Nicolas Maduro to step down, Richard.

So the key development is that we have members of the military on both sides today here in Caracas, Richard.

QUEST: Both sides fighting each other. But how does it play out? I mean, you've been some while now, is it your understanding that there is

sufficient weight, force, momentum behind this for it to go any further than some nasty violent skirmishes?

POZZEBON: What we understand is that the momentum is back into the opposition's course and this is already quite significant because after the

uprisings of the earlier months of this year, there are multi hundreds of thousands of people taking into the street, those marches in January and


The situation has frankly quite stalled here in the streets of Caracas for the best part of April. Both Maduro and Guaido had called for their

supporters to take on to the streets. Tomorrow, International Workers Day, a key crucial date for any socialist government around the world and

Nicolas Maduro's government is no exception.

What is happening today is that there has been a precipitation of events and that the opposition have been able so far to steal the initiative from

the government and to say, we are still here and we are still here to say loud and clear that Nicolas Maduro must go and this is still yet to be

understood whether that call will be made thereon by the wide majority of the military but still, the momentum emboldened, this story is back on

developing, it is fast striking and moving, Richard, and this is definitely significant from today.

QUEST: Stefano, we will be back to you within the hour to find out further developments and talk further on it. Thank you.

There are clashes in Venezuela when we come back. We need to understand why this took place now and the realistic possibilities of success whilst

also considering which country sides on what -- which country is on which side, in a moment.


[15:12:45] QUEST: Welcome back. Venezuela's Foreign Minister is warning the United States keep its hands off Venezuela and blaming the Colombian

government for the situation.

President Trump and top administration officials put out statements supporting Juan Guaido. Speak a moment ago, the National Security adviser,

John Bolton said all options are on the table. Russia has a contingent of military specialists in Venezuela. The Russian Embassy in Caracas says

those specialists will not intervene in the ongoing crisis. Whereas Colombia is calling an emergency meeting with the Lima Group, which

includes leaders from Latin America and Canada.

What we are seeing in Caracas tonight is happening against the background of an economy that is in collapse, the severe shortage and deprivation.

Inflation is rampant. The IMF, who is best as a judge says it will hit 10 million percent this year.

Venezuela's can't afford basic foods, shortages of medicine, and food have led to three million people leaving the country in recent years. And about

90 percent of the people live in poverty according to the United Nations.

The country's unemployment rate, official rate, who knows what the real one is, is 44 percent. CNN's Isa Soares is back with me from London. Isa,

when we talk earlier in the year, you were on the bridge, you showed us graphically time and again, the way in which the lives of real people, I

guess you've got to the point where it can't get much worse. Or can it?

SOARES: Well, for so many of Venezuelans who've crossed some three million or so, Richard, they never thought they would get to that point. This

hasn't just happened in the last several months. This has been happening for years, in fact, so what we have seen today on the streets of Venezuela

is years of hardship, years of frustration, desperation and years of discontent in many ways, Richard.

And you outline there some of the key factors in terms of what they're facing in terms of inflation, the IMF numbers, of course, many people

expect that to be much, much higher. In terms of GDP, we've seen a drop of 50 percent, five-zero, and then of course we have the oil, just in terms of

outputs, just a fraction of what it was some 10 years ago.

People are struggling for the most basic goods, Richard.

[15:15:10] SOARES: We're talking about bread, we're talking about milk, we're talking about any sort of medicine, in fact. I'm still having

conversations via WhatsApp with Venezuelans who live just across the border. A gentleman whose wife needs chemotherapy, who can't get the

medication not so long ago. In fact, he sent me a list of medications he wasn't even able to find in Venezuela. He, you know, constantly send me

voice messages. He is brought to tears.

It really is desperate in Venezuela. And when I went to Caracas, and I saw the hospitals for myself, it is shocking to see they don't have the most

basic things like plasters, IV fluid. And it's frustrating for so many. They never thought they got to this moment.

So moments like today when we see Juan Guaido saying this is the end of the usurpation. I know we've heard those words before, that brings a sense of

closure of relief with so many people, but some others on WhatsApp telling me as well, Richard, we've been here before. So let's wait and see what

the next few hours bring.

QUEST: We'll talk about that later, Isa, because that is the crucial point. We have been here before. It's what happens next. And Mauricio

Cardenas is Colombia's former Finance Minister. He is now at the Center for Global Development. He joins me now on the line. Hey, good morning to

you, sir. Can you hear me?


QUEST: So how is this different today? What we are seeing, how is it different do you perceive from those confrontations we've seen in the past?

CARDENAS: I think it's time to try something else. Try something different. Today, was an important day. But we saw again that the

military are supporting Maduro, that the real factor of power are the military. And, and there is the need of a way out for them.

And that means some arrangement that will allow them to, under a new regime, to have some legal security, which to me, this means that they'll

have -- there has to be some international effort, some coordination by the key stakeholders, which is not just the U.S., it's the U.S. or China.

China is Venezuela's largest creditor. Colombia should also be at that conference, because Colombia stating the higher cost in terms of the

migration of Venezuelans. The number is already 1.2 million in Colombia.

And that could also be helped by the presence of the Pope. Because this Pope is a factor that is acceptable to all parties. And that also will be

perceived as someone that will come to the table as a very neutral player. But there has to be a solution. There's a stalemate now and then the

solution will have to be a negotiated solution that in my view will need to include, as the first item, new elections, and someone outside Venezuela

conducting those elections, as a neutral player. It could be the UN. It could be the Organization of American States, but it should not be the

electoral authorities of Venezuela. It has to be someone else that is credible to all parties.

QUEST: Let me jump in here, if I may, you talk about all of these things that could and should and might happen. But if we look at what's actually

likely to happen today, the military are staying, at least the upper echelons of the military are staying with Maduro for the time being.

And let me just ask you bluntly, to the best of your knowledge, is Colombia involved? The Venezuelans suggests that Colombia is actively working for

the overthrow? Is this actively true?

CARDENAS: Colombia is helping finding a diplomatic solution. But it is not intervening. I'm not a member of the Colombian government. But from

what I know, from what I read, from what I hear, Colombia is not actively intervening inside Venezuela.

Colombia is very serious in that front in respect to the autonomy of Venezuela. Colombia is very worried about this situation (audio issues) --

[15:20:10] CARDENAS: ... because associated with the migration of Venezuelans into other countries.

QUEST: We will leave it there, Mauricio, because the line is breaking up. Thank you as always for joining us. Thank you. Now countries around the

world are having to pick sides. If you look at this, those in yellow are supporting Guaido, most North American countries and European countries,

Australia and Japan. I suppose, one would described as the usual collection and two of Venezuela's neighbors Columbia, you had former

minister and Brazil.

Now the red countries support Maduro. You have Nicaragua, you have Cuba, you have Russia, China, Turkey, Iran and Syria. Michelle Kosinski is with

me from Washington to help us understand this a bit more. You know, Michelle, I arguably say the usual suspects on both sides, a grouped around

where you'd expect them to be.

MICHELLE KOSINSKI, CNN SENIOR DIPLOMATIC CORRESPONDENT: For sure. I mean, the U.S. has named some of them that the Troika of tyranny to use a little

alliteration there in the region. But of course, coming from the outside, you have strong influence, financial influence of Russia and China there

creating an even more tenuous situation, especially if this is going to go to some kind of military confrontation, something the U.S. and likely no

one else wants to see at this point.

But again, it's open ended as to where exactly this ends. So right now, here at the State Department, only a few feet away, there's an ongoing

briefing, the first briefing we've had all day on the situation from the U.S. Special Envoy for Venezuela, Elliott Abrams, somebody with a lot of

experience and who has taken both criticism and praise in that region over many years.

So he says that U.S. policy in Venezuela remains strong support for Juan Guaido and a return to democracy. He said that the U.S. was unaware that

Guaido was going to move up his call for more protest and more support to a day early. It was supposed to be planned for tomorrow. And he said that

the risk of his arrest that there would have been rumors that he was likely to be arrested tomorrow or earlier that that was and is still a threat

because he wouldn't give a lot of detail there.

But one thing that was tantalizing was a he said over the last several weeks, there have been high level meetings inside Venezuela, something the

U.S. hasn't been a party to. But that these meetings involved the head of the Supreme Court, the Defense Minister and the head of Security

negotiations to talk about how to restore democracy.

Obviously, it hasn't reached a conclusion yet, but that's something that has been ongoing. And he opened the door there that that could lead to

something that would be an alternative to this devolving into ongoing clashes.

QUEST: The U.S., I suppose the temptation and you know, 30 years down the road, we'll find out with declassified documents that the U.S. had Special

Forces in there, or the U.S. was actively militarily helping Guaido. Does this seem likely?

KOSINSKI: Well, it could do, could do. I think, you know, we have seen that in the past. But let's use the example of the 2002 coup against Hugo

Chavez. And you could call that a successful coup. I mean, it did happen. There was military support for the opposition. There were negotiations.

Hugo Chavez was indeed deposed, but it only lasted about 48 hours. And then there was an uprising a pro-Chavez uprising, and he came right back

into power.

So it's been incredibly hard to pin that on the U.S. even today. There's evidence that U.S. officials met with the opposition before, but nobody has

ever been able to definitively prove that the U.S. orchestrated it. So it's possible that they did not. And it is possible that in this case,

strong support and encouragement and some maybe intelligence coordination is going on. But the extent of that we just don't know.

QUEST: Right, now listen to what John Bolton said on the question of aid. Have a listen and we'll talk about it after.


JOHN BOLTON, US NATIONAL SECURITY ADVISER: Well, I think from the perspective of the humanitarian crisis that we face in Venezuela, I hope

this is enough to tip Maduro out of power because it's only when he and his fellow kleptocrats who have plundered the Venezuelan economy for the last

20 years are removed from power that we can put the Venezuelan economy back on its feet for the for the benefit of the people. The sooner Maduro is

gone, the sooner is the possibility of justice and real economic growth for the Venezuelan people.


[15:25:10] QUEST: The State Department naturally believes, Michelle, that that the avenue for that is through some sort of negotiated or agreed

departure, rather than perhaps what we're seeing today, which is a forcing of the issue on the streets.

KOSINSKI: Sure, that would be the ideal, right. And it seems like that's what the U.S. is saying has been going on. And we just heard this from

Elliott Abrams, somebody with a great deal of experience in this area and all these kinds of issues. Somebody who wants to see this end well, so he

said that those kinds of negotiations have been going on for weeks, possibility that that's could still end in something? It looks like this

kind of confrontation, I mean, this morning when this started, it sure looked like this was a coup attempt.

Now all sides are saying, well, except for Maduro's side, of course, U.S. and Guaido's people are saying, no, no, this is absolutely not a coup.

It's absolutely not a coup. And when Guaido's Ambassador to the U.S., Carlos Vecchio held a press conference just a couple of hours ago and was

asked, you know, is this the end of diplomacy, essentially? Are you now willing to take back the government by force? Is that is that where this

is going? He said, "No, no, no, this is totally different. People should remain on the streets, we should be on the streets demonstrating


So there's always a risk here that this devolves and we saw that military vehicle ramming into the edges of the crowd that looked like that could

really set things off. We were just discussing here. I mean, is this going to go all night? And how tense are things going to get? So you know

that the U.S. wants to be extremely careful, it wants to express strong support and be involved as much as possible without orchestrating a coup?

Is that an incredibly fine line? And sometimes you can't quite see that line? Absolutely.

QUEST: Michelle, thank you, perfectly and well described there. We were talking about what Michelle was just saying, what is likely to happen, just

bear in mind, it's only 3:26 in the afternoon. Caracas is on Eastern time, and so there are many, many hours into the late hot afternoon and into the

early evening, when these developments -- the sort of pictures that you're seeing now could take a nasty turn for the worst. Our coverage of the

chaos in Venezuela today continues.



[15:30:00] RICHARD QUEST, HOST, QUEST MEANS BUSINESS: Hello, I'm Richard Quest in New York. Allow me to bring you up to date with the dramatic

developments in Venezuela. So gunfire on the streets of Caracas, and throughout the day we've been witnessing protests and violent clashes

between demonstrators and forces loyal to Nicolas Maduro.

It was an early morning call that started all this from the opposition leader Juan Guiado, he was calling on the military to defect and for

civilians to oust President Maduro. Guiado has declared in his words, the state of the -- "the start of the end of the usurpation."

Maduro's government claims the situation is under control. And says it is confident it has the total loyalty of the military. CNN's Jorge Luis Perez

Valery is with us from Caracas. The -- what is the situation? We heard from Stefano on the street about the machinations of those moving around.

But if we go up to higher level, what is going on at the higher levels of government, do you believe?

JORGE LUIS PEREZ VALERY, CNN EN ESPANOL CORRESPONDENT: Well, we have been listening to some officials from the Maduro administration, Richard,

stating that they are going to remain loyal to Nicolas Maduro. We are talking about Minister of Defense Vladimir Padrino Lopez, a person who John

Bolton just talked about a couple of minutes ago, asking him to stop his support for Maduro's regime.

Telling also to the chief of the Venezuelan Justice that they have to support Juan Guaido as an interim president of this country, as the United

States is recognizing it. Bolton also denying that this is a coup d'etat. Saying that the President Juan Guaido, they are recognizing him as that,

are just trying to take in charge of the military institution in Venezuela.

And the officials from the Maduro's administration, the high ranks at least are stating that the situation is normal for now, that they have control of

the main military bases in the country, that the main commanders of the military in Venezuela are still loyal to Nicolas Maduro.

However, in the streets of Caracas, we saw earlier these -- this group of military personnel from the National Guard supporting Juan Guaido, they

were heavily armed, they were on the streets, they were joined by other followers and supporter of Juan Guaido, and they said that they wanted to

march towards the west part of the city.

And in this part of Caracas is where the presidential palace is. And there were also supporters of Nicolas Maduro --

QUEST: All right --

VALERY: At that point, saying that they are going to --

QUEST: Sure --

VALERY: Defend their boldly violent(ph) revolution. For now, a tense situation, Richard.

QUEST: It's a tense situation, but it raises -- is this the tipping point? Is this the moment when there is a shift in the Maduro regime?

VALERY: For now, what we can tell is that there are no high-rank officials in the military's institution backing up Juan Guaido to finally -- to

finally set his goal that he has been saying he wants, and that is Maduro to go out of the presidency. For now, we have a middle and low-ranking

officials that are backing him up.

But the shift and pardon me, a cue when a high-ranking official from the Venezuelan state comes out and says that he is no longer supporting Nicolas

Maduro. We heard Minister of Defense Vladimir Padrino Lopez supporting him, we heard the chief of Justice also stating that position also.

Also the Attorney General often spoke and said that they are going to remain loyal to Nicolas Maduro, and they are also warning about

consequences --

QUEST: All right --

VALERY: Of these actions of today from Juan Guaido, Leopoldo Lopez and other opposition leaders in terms of justice.

[15:35:00] QUEST: Good to have you, thank you sir. Patrick Duddy is the former U.S. Ambassador to Venezuela under both President Bush and the Obama

administration. The ambassador joins me now. Sir, much going on, good to see you.

Much going on today arguing whether this is a coup or not a coup. John Bolton says it's not a coup. Other people say it is an attempted coup. Is

this just semantics about whether it's a coup or is there some true difference between it?

PATRICK DUDDY, FORMER U.S. AMBASSADOR TO VENEZUELA: Oh, I don't think it's just semantics. The key point here is that the people who have so far

maintained a hold of the military and much of the government's authority have essentially usurped power.

Juan Guaido as president of the (INAUDIBLE) assumed the presidency because the process that conveys legitimacy essentially threw it -- you know,

imposed it upon him. Maduro's regime has been perceived widely by the region as illegitimate since the very beginning of this year and his re-

election last year was considered completely fraudulent.

QUEST: So is it only the military that's keeping him in power?

DUDDY: Well, I think he's supported as well by certain Cuban elements that are there and are assisting the military still loyal to Maduro, and he has

at least to this point been backed also by Russia and China.

QUEST: Now, that's interesting because one of the State Department people were suggesting, and one of the administration people were suggesting that

in the U.S., reaction to what's going on today, they need to be firm enough, but not so firm as to get Russia and China involved. The message

needs to be to them, stay away.

DUDDY: Well, I think that the calculation that many in the administration are making is that neither China nor Russia's interests are advanced by

tying themselves to the mast of a sinking ship. At the same time, I think the administration is anxious to avoid having this situation evolve into a

great power conflict.

QUEST: That's it -- I mean, is there a risk that Venezuela turns into a proxy battle, a proxy war?

DUDDY: I think the risk of that is very low because of the weakness of the Maduro regime and the immense support interim President Guaido has around

the world. Fifty four countries recognize him as the legitimate president and that includes virtually everybody in Latin America with the exception

of Cuba, Nicaragua and Bolivia.

Mexico has at least to this point declined to offer a view one way or the other. But if you look at a map of the region, it's very solidly behind

Juan Guaido. And China, for instance, has interests all over the region. I don't see China interested in compromising its relations with others on

behalf of a dictatorial and failing regime.

QUEST: Verily, ambassador. Is it your view that this -- what we're seeing today is the tipping point? This is the moment because if I think back to

when Juan Guaido came into -- you know, declared himself president, I think of all those weeks after, we thought then this was the moment of momentum

and it wasn't. Is today that moment?

DUDDY: Ad I'm not sure. I have been in a number of different fora, counseling what -- something I've called strategic patience. Richard,

these things have been there for 20 years, and I think it is going to be, you know, a difficult process to dislodge them.

They could of course be turned out of power in the coming days, but it isn't yet clear to me that, that will definitely happen. Much may depend

on the willingness on the one hand of the military to continue to support Maduro and conceivably even fire on their fellow citizens.

And it will also depend on the willingness to Juan Guaido's supporters to stay in the street and put pressure on Maduro.

QUEST: Ambassador, thank you, sir, we appreciate it. We will continue to look at the implications and the various different aspects of the surprise

when we recover -- when we return.

[15:40:00] Including the latest reports from Caracas, we'll be back into the city.


QUEST: As the protestors and pro-Maduro forces clash on the streets of Venezuela, television and internet access in the country has now been

restricted including CNN. NetBlocks is a company that monitors those restrictions and it reports access to social media networks and sites like

Google have been shut off and cut off.

NetBlocks says VPN services remain effective as a worker. And Samuel Burke is tracking it all. First of all, for those of us who don't understand all

of this, how do you cut off the internet? You just sort of cut off the -- the sort of the pipe coming into the country?

SAMUEL BURKE, CNN BUSINESS & TECHNOLOGY CORRESPONDENT: No, really, the way they do it is start cutting it off service by service. And they start with

the biggest ones, the way that you were just showing on the screen there, Richard, YouTube, Android, these are the biggest platforms in the world.

So if you're able to just cut off access to one particular server, that really means you're cutting off access to the internet. But what's so

interesting here is if you look at some of the data that this group, NetBlocks is showing us, it's only affecting users of the Gandeve(ph), this

is the internet that's run by the state.

You have options of getting private internet or the one that's backed by the state, and it's only the state-backed internet that is seeing these

cuts. That leads experts to believe that the Maduro government is behind this block.

QUEST: Right, but the -- what's the purpose? I mean, I don't know whether you're familiar with the percentage that will be getting it from that

versus from private. I mean, assuming you could afford it at all. I mean, how much does this government-supplied service have?

BURKE: Estimates are north of 80 percent --

QUEST: Oh, right --

BURKE: In years past, we don't have updated numbers, given the situation in Venezuela. But that means you're obviously cutting off huge swaths of

the internet for people and maybe blocking people then from seeing what type of activity is going on, the same way that CNN is blocked in Venezuela

and maybe stopping people from going to the streets to gather and protest against the government.

QUEST: I mean, is that the point, is that to prevent the net, to prevent social media from being used as a rallying cry?

BURKE: It's a classic case of stopping the flow of information. But there are also these unintended consequences, Richard. I'm fascinated by the

fact that you would think that Venezuela, a place that has these constant outages of internet, and one of the slowest internet connections in the

world, that they wouldn't be using mobile payments.

But because there's such a lack of cash in Venezuela, you can't get your hands on cold, hard cash. So people have actually been using mobile

payments at higher rates than neighboring countries.

[15:45:00] So, it means that when there's a blockage like this, the already crippled Venezuelan economy gets even worse, because of course if

you can't connect to the internet, you're not using mobile payments.

QUEST: The -- we've been hearing from a variety of different people. Marco Rubio has been speaking, many U.S. politicians have been speaking.

But it's not exactly clear where this goes next.

BURKE: Yes, it's interesting because Marco Rubio, the senator from the United States who was actually tweeting about the internet blocking, he

alleged that maybe China was involved. In some way, I've been speaking to one of his aides who said, well, they're talking about -- he was talking

about ways that Chinese companies have been alleged, according to media reports to have provided tools to Venezuela to monitor tracking.

But there's no sign that there was any Chinese involvement in this current blockage. Where does it go next? Well, I think if you look at the control

of the internet, that might be one way of indicating, and you look at also the popularity of certain people on the internet, and that's often the case

of where it goes next.

I think the most difficult part is knowing that for Venezuelans, it gets much more difficult without cash, without mobile payments, everyday life,

no matter who is in power in the next week or month becomes that much more difficult as these blockages continue.

QUEST: Samuel, thank you. Samuel Burke in London following that. Continue to watch that, please, that aspect of it. Stefano is back with us

in Caracas. The -- we will be with him in just a moment. We're having -- expect him to line to get himself together to find out the latest

developments on the streets.

You're looking at pictures from Caracas at the moment. It's a tense -- I don't have the best word to describe it. Not even -- I wouldn't say calm,

I would say a tense standoff that exists at the moment. We'll talk about it with Stefano in Caracas in just a moment.


QUEST: We have some new video from Venezuela to bring you. The gates at one entrance to La Carlota air base in Caracas. When they were opened on

Tuesday morning by National Guard members, Guard members who were apparently sympathetic to the anti-government protesters. It's according

to journalists who witnessed the event, who were speaking to us.

[15:50:00] The journalist Carolyn Carabiao(ph) who says was at the scene said some protestors entered the air base before being forcibly expelled.

According to Carabiao(ph), there was a second gate beyond the main entrance which the protestors knocked down before the authorities who are loyal to

the government used tear gas to put the crowd back on the street.

It paints this idea for you of a deteriorating situation. Stefano Pozzebon is in Caracas with me once again on the streets. Tell us where you are and

the current situation. Let's get an understanding of the dynamics going on here.

STEFANO POZZEBON, JOURNALIST: Yes, Richard. Where I'm standing now is Altamira Square; essential square in the heart of Caracas and the bastion

of the opposition for the past few years. Here is the place where hundreds of opposition protesters have been gathered to look for information to hear

from Juan Guaido himself who was on this very same square just a few hours ago.

The result of this military uprising, and about 200 meters from behind my back, 200 meters down at the bottom of this road is that key military air

base. It's essentially a military airport that lays in the heart of Caracas. And from the outskirts of that airport is where the Juan Guaido

and opposition leader Leopoldo Lopez were making their pronouncement in the very early hours of today here on Tuesday in Venezuela.

For the past several hours, we have been hearing gunshots being fired towards the bottom of the square, it's down in the south where the

situation is closer to the military base and onto the streets is where all the ambulances and the paramedics will bring those who have been injured or

affected by tear gas and rubber bullets, and especially perhaps by those live ammunition that we've been able to witness with our own eyes and in

front of our cameras earlier today.

The situation here is very much volatile still. We understand we're in a secure location still about 200 meters away from the front line. But the

front line is just right there at the bottom of this road where you can see the smoke of tear gas rising and rising in the skies over Caracas, Richard.

QUEST: It's 4:00 or coming up to 4 O'clock in the afternoon. Is it your feeling that as night falls, this gets worse or it dies out?

POZZEBON: We understand that Juan Guaido will make a pronouncement. I understand and I imagine that he would want to make a pronouncement by the

end of the day to at least update the situation. Update for example the hundreds of people who have been gathering around me here, waiting to hear

from him what essentially the end of these operation.

In the early hours of today, Guaido was saying operation --

QUEST: Right --

POZZEBON: Freedom has started, this is the key defining moment when we're going to -- when we're going to -- when we're going to oust Nicolas Maduro

from power. That hasn't happened yet. So to the question again, once again is what next? And we'll be monitoring the movements of the opposition

either to understand what other things he plans and he will bring on to try to breakthrough these intense stalemate between security forces in Caracas.

QUEST: On that final point, Stefano, that final moment when things will develop, the tipping point, if you like, from your understanding, what is

that tipping point? What will it take for that tipping point to happen?

POZZEBON: Once and again, the key arbiter of the contest seems again to be the military armed forces. Earlier today, the defense ministry was on

television here in Caracas, saying that they recognized the leadership of Nicolas Maduro and they stand by the embattled president. While we have

seen several members of low ranking units, sergeants, lieutenants, captains joining side with Guaido.

When we will see that even the top brass of the Venezuelan military understands that it makes -- it makes more -- is more convenient to them to

switch sides and to join Juan Guaido because of his international recognition, because of the support of the population or perhaps because

they understand that Nicolas Maduro's mandate is over. There will be --

[15:55:00] QUEST: All right --

POZZEBON: The crucial tipping point, Richard, and that hasn't happened yet.

QUEST: Stay with us Stefano, there will be more to report in the way that you're there for us. Thank you, it has been a significant day for

Venezuela. Let me bring you up to date on what we've learned so far. Hala Gorani has this report, and I'll remind you again that some of the video

here is very graphic.


HALA GORANI, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Clashes in the streets of Caracas as the military loyal to President Maduro takes on opposition protesters. The

crowd runs wild, at one point, an armored vehicle plows into a group of people, the violence has been building all day since protesters gathered on

a bridge near a military air base.

Under a cloud of tear gas, shots rang through the air, sending protestors and reporters alike running for shelter, including CNN's team. As the

hours went by, the crowds swelled with some members of the National Guard switching sides to join the opposition, donning blue arm bands.

Both sides in the escalating confrontation are accusing the other of attempting a coup since both claim they are the legitimate government. It

wasn't long before the fences of the military base had been breached. The first sign that today would mark a new phase in the Venezuelan crisis came

at dawn.

Opposition leader Juan Guaido appeared in a video on Twitter, flanked by men in military uniform, alongside armored vehicles, he said the time had

come to launch operation liberty.

JUAN GUAIDO, PRESIDENT, NATIONAL ASSEMBLY OF VENEZUELA: Today, brave soldiers, brave patriots, brave men loyal to the constitution have heard

our call. We have finally met on the streets of Venezuela.

GORANI: Guaido was joined by another opposition member, Leopoldo Lopez, believed to have been under house arrest until now. Together, they called

for Venezuelans to take to the streets and for more members of the military to join the struggle.

Many of the nation's security forces are still loyal to embattled President Maduro. Whether they remain so will likely determine how the next chapter

plays out.


QUEST: I'm Richard Quest, stay with us as the coverage continues from Venezuela, and of course to know there are developments to report, we will

be with you because the news never stops. This is CNN.