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HALA GORANI TONIGHT
Clashes Erupt in Venezuela After Opposition Leader Calls on Military to Defect; Venezuelan Defense Minister Calls Opposition Savage; Cuba Voices Support for Maduro Against Opposition. Aired 2-3p ET
Aired April 30, 2019 - 14:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
[14:00:00] HALA GORANI, CNN HOST: Hello, everyone. Live from CNN London, I'm Hala Gorani.
Tonight a dramatic new attempt by Venezuela's key opposition figure, Juan Guaido, to oust the President, Nicolas Maduro. He has called for the
military to intervene sparking violence on the streets. Some dramatic scenes we'll show you in just a minute. Guaido declared the start of the
end of the usurpation. Maduro's government says the situation is in fact under control and, quote, we will win. Take a look at this scene from just
the last few minutes.
Gun battles in the streets of Caracas. What you see here is a fluid situation. Let's bring you up to date on what we've learned so far and
some of the video you're about to see is graphic.
Flashes in the streets of Caracas as the military loyal to President Maduro takes on opposition protestors. The crowd runs wild. At one point, an
armored vehicle plows the into a group of people. The violence has been building all day since protestors 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 has been breached the first sign that today would mark a new phase in the Venezuela crisis came at done. Juan Guaido appeared in a
video on Twitter flanked by men in military uniforms alongside armored vehicles he said the time had come to launch Operation Liberty.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
JUAN GUAIDO, SELF DECLARED INTERIM PRESIDENT OF VENEZUELA (through translator): Today brave soldiers, brave patriots, brave men loyal to our
constitution have heard our call. We have finally met on the streets of Venezuela.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
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 whether likely determine how the next chapter plays out.
Let's dissect what's going on here. We have the Vice President of the Americas Society and Council of the Americas. Thoughts on this, Eric, is
this a turning point? Does Juan Guaido have the support he needs from the military to take over here.
ERIC FARNSWORTH, VICE PRESIDENT OF THE AMERICAS SOCIETY AND COUNCIL OF THE AMERICAS: This is a really dangerous moment in Venezuela, no question
about it. It's been building for some time, since Guaido, according to the constitution, became the interim President of Venezuela back in January.
There's been a sense that momentum has been flagging somewhat and so Guaido and his forces have been looking for a way to change the narrative to
recapture the momentum here. And he had called for massive nationwide protests on May 1st.
Rumors were swirling yesterday that he would be subject to arrest on May 1st. So the actions today are an effort to preempt that. Will they be
successful? I think we have to wait and see. The key as you indicated clearly remains with the military in Venezuela.
GORANI: And stand by. Stefano Pozzebon is actually on the ground in Caracas. What's the very latest in terms of the violence and street
[14:05:00] STEFANO POZZEBON, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Hala, we're seeing that the clashes between military forces hunker down in the military air base
just at the end of the street, just a couple of hundred meters from the location where I am here at the moment. Those clashes are still ongoing.
We've been hearing for hours, intense gunfights between military forces inside the base and the members of the military who have switched sides and
joined the ranks of the opposition.
Here in my hands, I have some of the ammunition that have been fired earlier today. He ranks of the opposition. He ranks of the opposition.
Here in my hands, I have some of the ammunition that have been fired earlier today. Those clashes are still going on and just a few minutes ago
we could see at the end of this road, intense tear gas. The clash has been going on for the best part of the last seven hours here in the heart of
This is very much a residential area of Caracas. Many tourists would come and visit. This is a residential area that's been taken over. And we have
said it, the key development of today is that some members of the military, some units have been joining forces with Juan Guaido.
GORANI: Just the military is still, it appears, behind Maduro, right? We need from the army chief, the defense minister saying we're backing Maduro.
We are not switching sides.
POZZEBON: Yes. That's what we're hearing from the top brass of the -- from the top brass of the military. Maduro has been a President who's been
very friendly to the top brass of the military. Many generals sit in his cabinet and many others are responsible for the contracts for construction
infrastructure. So the top brass of the military has been strongly linked with the leadership of Nicolas Maduro.
But the bulk of the troops, the sergeants, the lieutenants have been telling us that discontent within the army barracks have been spreading.
And the gunfire that I can hear in the background suggests to me that there are some members of the military that have switched sides today. And this
is crucial and this is a new development, Hala.
GORANI: All right. Our live coverage from inside Venezuela continues. Thanks very much. Back to you, Stefano was making the point that the top
brass, and this happens a lot in autocracies obviously, they reap the benefit of the regime so they're more likely to stick with the sitting
leadership, but our reporter is saying the rank-and-file not so sure. So we have to wait and see what in the next few days?
FARNSWORTH: This is what we would anticipate, the senior leadership of the military, which is fully invested in the continuation of the Maduro regime
because of corruption, drug trafficking, special privileges, et cetera, they want the continuation of the Maduro regime. And you would anticipate
them coming out publicly saying everything is under control to try to give comfort to those who may be questioning the sustainability of the Maduro
The discontent has been rising in the lower levels of the military. They have to look for food, they have to look for medicine that's not available
and they have been suffering too. What will we be looking for, a continued changing of loyalty for the military and security forces, and truthfully, a
critical mass? One other quick point, we have to look beyond Caracas. Venezuela is a huge country, they have major cities.
And I anticipate unrest developing in those areas as well. It already has been. But once you see a military commander who has control of troops in a
different part of the country turn, I think that will be a very important signal.
GORANI: Should we call this a coup attempt? Obviously, a successful coup is when they manage to take over state-run media, they are able to make
sure that the military forces come to their side. What would you call what's going on in Venezuela today?
FARNSWORTH: I really appreciate the question, Hala. I would not call it a coup. I would call it an effort to re-establish the constitutional order
in Venezuela. The reason being is because Venezuela's constitution puts Juan Guaido as the interim President because the re-election of Maduro in
may of 2018 was clearly fraudulent. It was not recognized by the international community.
[14:10:00] And so this is an effort to restore Venezuela's own constitution. If there was a coup, it was when Maduro took office for a
second term in January. But the other thing is, the word coup is a loaded term in Latin America. The charges are going to go back and forth in terms
of who's responsible for what. But at the end of the day the restoration of the constitutional order is what Guaido and his people are looking for.
GORANI: Thank you for joining us. I want to remind our viewers, what they're seeing there on the right-hand side of their screen are live images
coming to us from Caracas. The right-hand side of their screen the right- hand side of their screen are live images coming to us from Caracas. This story, it's another big Venezuelan city, and we're going to have to keep
our eye on what's going on there.
Sporadic clashes there, but we're still hearing gunfire at least as far as these images and this video is concerned coming to us live from Caracas.
What about the United States in all this? Venezuela's foreign minister says the attempts were directly planned in Washington. President Trump
hadn't spoken out yet about the crisis unfolding today. But it's clear his government strongly backs the Venezuelan opposition.
The Vice President Mike Pence tweeted a message to Juan Guaido and his supporters saying we are with you in Spanish and English. Russia is
slamming the opposition. The Kremlin has a small contingent of military specialists in the area. Let's talk more about all of this with John Kirby
live in Washington and our senior international correspondent Fred Plietgen in Washington. Do you think Juan Guaido would have done this without a nod
from the United States?
JOHN KIRBY, CNN MILITARY AND DIPLOMATIC ANALYST: I don't know that he got a nod, but I think he feels comfortable moving forward in this fashion,
this very overt fashion because he knows he has the support of the Trump administration behind him as well as the support of many other nations in
the region. I think he if they would emboldened by that. But I don't know if it was permission to move ahead today.
GORANI: What would the thinking be at the White House, at the state department, at the Pentagon, do you think?
KIRBY: One of the things I've been surprised about is urging calm and a reduction of the violence. They have come all in on Guaido and his
opposition leaders and I understand that and they were on the right side of history in espousing his constitutional election. But they haven't really
done anything to quell the violence or urge resisters to stop the violent protests and that bothers me a little bit. If this was -- the last
administration we would be working very, very hard with regional partners.
The Lima group in particular to try to make sure they're getting involved and you're trying to force a peaceful approach to an end to this rather
than continued violence.
GORANI: Fred in Moscow. What are you hearing? Any reaction at all to the events unfolding in Venezuela?
FREDERIK PLEITGEN, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: There certainly is some reaction on the Russian side. The Russians have been in lock step
with the Maduro government over the past couple of years, but especially over the past couple of months since you've seen all these moves that have
been going on since Maduro has been under pressure.
Just a couple of days ago, I was at a major military conference in Moscow and there were a lot of military members from the Venezuelan military as
well. One of them giving a speech at that conference. Vladimir Putin dealt with this situation today in his national security council. This
took up a lot of time in the national security council. As you've mentioned, the Russian foreign ministry accusing the opposition of what
they say is inciting the situation.
There was a statement from the foreign ministry where they came out and said they call on all sides to go back to nonviolence and to respect the
constitution of Venezuela. Obviously, they're talking about the opposition in that case whom they seem to squarely be blaming for that.
You also mentioned, Hala, those military personnel of Russia who are on the ground in Venezuela, we know that especially the military cooperation
between the Maduro government and Russia has been very close. Russia has flown some very heavy aircraft into Venezuela and they have that contingent
on the ground.
[14:15:00] The Russians putting out a statement saying it's impossible for those soldiers to get involved because they say those are trainer who are
showing Venezuelan soldiers some of the military, they've sold to them in the past. Not people who would be getting involved in this situation. The
Russian government very much squarely on the side of Nicolas Maduro and his government, Hala.
GORANI: On some level, both the U.S. and Russia are involved. You'll remember, John, the President of the United States welcoming the wife of
Juan Guaido in the Oval Office, making a big splash of it. This happened March 27th.
KIRBY: Yes, you're right. I'm sorry.
GORANI: I thought there was sound. There isn't. We're seeing the video there of Mrs. Guaido with Donald Trump in the Oval Office. Talk to us a
little bit about -- because this is getting involved. Even if not on the ground operationally, it is getting involved by hosting this particular
KIRBY: We have certainly put our thumb of the scale of Juan Guaido. We aren't alone in that. Other nations, the Lima group in particular and
regional countries have as well.
GORANI: And EU.
KIRBY: And the EU, absolutely. But I want to bring up something Fred pointed out which is critical. I don't think we're running into some
potential armed conflict between United States backing one side and Russia backing Maduro.
Don't go thinking that the Russians put those assets in Venezuela just to put a thumb in the eye of Trump. They have had a long interest in
Venezuela. They do have a military to military cooperation agreement. Very much from the experts I'm talking to, the assets that they're putting
there very much designed to thwart any potential U.S. military intervention here.
You have Senator Rick Scott of Florida openly calling just a couple hours ago on Twitter for U.S. military intervention. I think we need to take a
step back, there needs to be a call for dialogue and discussion and try to bring the violence to an end.
GORANI: Fred, last one to you, you said there were Venezuelan military leaders in Moscow. Where were they?
PLEITGEN: This was a big -- it was a big military exhibition and military conference that happened in Moscow last week. A lot of them of course
allies of the Russians, there were some North Koreans there. A lot of personnel from Venezuela as well. It was quite interesting because there
was one senior general from Venezuela who gave a speech at the conference talking about military cooperation, also talking about some of the threats
that the Venezuelans were perceiving.
And there was also a senior Russian admiral who spoke as well. And he spoke a lot about America's role in Venezuela, talked about the negative
role that the Russians believe America is playing in south America but is playing in Venezuela in particular. I think that's absolutely true, the
Russians have a vested state in Venezuela.
There was some talk in the past year of the Russians possibly stationing bombers there, maybe not permanently, but flying them into that area more
frequently. It seems that the Russians have been sticking their feelers out. They're on the side of the Maduro government and they certainly seem
to have a very vested interest.
Just a couple months ago I was at a press conference with the Russian foreign minister where they reiterated that they were squarely on the side
of the Maduro government which they consider to be the legitimate government of Venezuela.
GORANI: Thanks very much. Still to come tonight, the latest from our breaking news coverage on Venezuela. And the warning that the country's
defense minister is giving to opposition supporters. After a day of protests and clashes.
[14:20:00] (COMMERCIAL BREAK)
GORANI: An update on our breaking news. Dramatic events under way in Venezuela. The country's opposition leader called on Venezuela's military
to defect and oust the President, Nicolas Maduro. A few hours later, chaos outside a military base and a warning. This is extremely disturbing video.
An armored video deliberately plowed into a group of protestors. It appeared to run over some of them. You can see it seems to me like there's
one person on the ground.
And that people are running to his or her assistance there. Right now we have no information on injuries or deaths from this. President Maduro says
he retains the loyalty of military leaders. His defense minister called the opposition savage and warning protestors to stand down.
Isa Soares is with me. You were there very recently in Venezuela. Does Guaido appear to have the support of enough of the military to take over?
ISA SOARES, CNN HOST: Honestly, I don't think so. This could be pivotal and I think the next 24 to 48 hours will be key. But I think from what I
heard, he told CNN that he has the support of lower and middle ranks. What he really needs are the top brass and he didn't seem like he had it.
And I spoke to so many lower ranked military officials when I was in Caracas and even the border with Columbia, many who have defected and said,
I'm defecting because we don't have enough food, I can't feed my children, but the reality is, that the top brass still control so much of the key
They're so loyal to Maduro that not even the U.S. sanctions have seen them actually budge in any sort of way. In the last few minutes, John Bolton
had put this tweet up, tweeting only in Spanish what seemed to me like a message to the military. The only route to alleviate sanctions for
individuals and entities aligned with the regime of Maduro is by accepting offer of amnesty by President Guaido.
Clearly a message there to the top-ranking military officials, get on the right side, back Guaido. The sanctions will go away.
GORANI: In all these regimes, a similar story plays out. We see it in the Middle East, other parts of the world, where the top military brass benefit
from this regime through corruption, you know, through preferential treatment. They get the cars, and they have no real reason to switch
SOARES: Their children go to schools or they go to the University of London. Their family is not even based in Caracas. Many of their families
live abroad. The sanctions hurt them to a certain extent, but they've got so much that the -- going back all the way to Chavez. For him to have the
support of the top brass, something has to change. And for me it was a dangerous move for Guaido --
GORANI: The timing is interesting. What would have made him do this now? If you look at the pictures, we're not there, but we have reporters there
and we can see the aerial shots. The crowds are not huge.
SOARES: No. Compared to what we've seen.
GORANI: Exactly. And we see isolated groups of men, there are some gun battles trying to breach the perimeter of their base, et cetera, but it's
not a mass movement it doesn't seem like.
[14:25:00] SOARES: We haven't -- this could be something similar to what we saw with Chavez in 2011, 2012. He disappeared for a while and then
suddenly he's back. This could be it. We do not know where Maduro is at the moment. I asked one of the sources, they wouldn't get back to me, but
they have told me that they're in control of the situation and Maduro still in fact is the legitimate President of Venezuela.
But this feels to me like they ought to be in a strategy, what that strategy is, is not clear because he's really drawn a red line here,
Guaido, because if he can't get the military on his side, where does he go from here?
GORANI: Yes. And that's my next question. The Maduro government is going to have to act against Guaido and Lopez --
SOARES: And in fact on that, I was listening to --
GORANI: In their -- from their perspective, you're trying to overthrow us, we're going to arrest you.
SOARES: In fact Vladimir Padrino who is the secretary of defense speaking today in Spanish I was listening to him, he said, if we need to use our
weapons, we will do so. So they're monitoring the situation, trying to step back, to know what an international story it has, the support from
around the world, 50-plus countries.
But I think perhaps -- and this is just my take on it, Hala. Lopez coming out perhaps Guaido was hoping that could have been a turning point. That
this figure that so many people looked up to, that perhaps that could have moved some individuals within the military. That hasn't happened as of
yet. What the strategy is going closer to Maduro's palace, I do not know.
GORANI: I understand John Bolton is expected to address the Venezuela situation in just a few minutes. We'll take that live when it happens.
Thanks very much. The Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro is getting support from Cuba. CNN's Patrick Oppmann is in Havana with reaction from
there. We've heard from the Cuban government. What are they saying?
PATRICK OPPMANN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: This of course is a major point of concern. The officials are watching the events in Venezuela very closely.
Venezuela is Cuba's socialist ally, but Cuba receives billions of dollars of oil vital to the Cuban economy. And one of the reasons the Trump
administration says they want Maduro to go because they say they support an unfriendly government here in Havana.
And Cuba's President has been very active on Twitter today, unusually so, saying that Cuba -- tweeting in English, Cuba stands by the legitimate
government of Venezuela that is calmly facing a new coup attempt by the pro-imperialist right with complicity of the U.S. and lackey governments of
And he's referring to governments in Ecuador, Peru, Panama who have had enough of the millions of Venezuelans coming across their borders. People
who have nothing but the clothes on their backs and are dragging down economies of those countries. And they're creating a humanitarian crisis
throughout the region.
[14:30:00] As unpopular as the U.S. has been throughout Latin America with a history of coups and bullying smaller countries of Latin America, it's
striking that so many countries, Cuba not included on that list, have backed Juan Guaido because they say there's no future with Nicolas Maduro
that the economy will only get worse, the economy of a country that was once the richest in the region, it used to accept refugees from around the
region and is supporting people who are fleeing because the country there is not sustainable anymore.
GORANI: Thanks very much.
These are live images, correct? Yes. These are live images. I want you to get a feel, a sense for what's going on in the streets of Caracas. I
want to listen in for a little bit here.
[14:30:01] Based on what I'm seeing here, it appears as though some pro- Guaido protestors there are clashing for rudimentary weapons here, a tire is being rolled down the street, quite an uneven match there. But you are
hearing gunfire in the distance, a bit of rock throwing as well. Small crowds but a tense moment in Caracas. More to come, we'll have the latest
from the streets of Venezuela.
[14:30:56] HALA GORANI, CNN INTERNATIONAL ANCHOR: Let's get you up to speed on our breaking news. Juan Guaido, the country's self-declared
president and opposition leader says the time has come for President Nicolas Maduro's reign to end, urging the military to take to the streets
and join the people and forcing him out.
For hours now, we've seen crowds of protestors swarming the streets of the capital, Caracas, they have thinned. At times, the situation has turned
violent. We need to warn you that what you're about to see is disturbing. You can see armored vehicles driving straight into a crowd, knocking them
down and running over them, deliberately. There's also been tear gas and gunfire and the sound of gunfire. And that's the sound of gunfire we are
Let's get analysis, Eurasia Group, Ian Bremmer, joins me now from New York.
What do you make of what's going on in Juan Guaido's timing here in calling on the people and on the military to join him in ousting Maduro, Ian?
IAN BREMMER, PRESIDENT, EURASIA GROUP: Well, it does seem like the Americans were surprised. The statements that we've seen today from the
vice president, secretary of state, and others do not seem to be well coordinated. In other words, I think a day ago, a week ago, they were not
expecting that Juan Guaido was going to wake up today and declare that it was time to take over.
That's -- that implies that it's going to be harder for him to win and that maybe his hand was forced because -- there have been some reports that he
feared imminent arrest from Maduro's regime. There was also the big demonstrations nationwide, he was calling for tomorrow, perhaps, he felt
like they were not going to go the way that he had hoped they might. He does have some more defections on his side and they've taken over a
But to be clear, the defense minister in Venezuela and the high command is still very much with Mr. Maduro. And so it's hard to imagine right now
that we are very close to Guaido taking over.
GORANI: Yes. What would the U.S. be -- by the way, the president had tweeted 10 minutes ago, Donald Trump, I am monitoring the situation in
Venezuela very closely. The United States stands with the people of Venezuela and their freedom. So nothing exceptionally different from what
we heard from Mike Pompeo.
What would the -- what would the calculus be here now in Washington?
BREMMER: Well, I think that there's a strong opposition among just about everybody to engage militarily on behalf of Guaido and against the
Venezuelan military. That's very different from providing communications support, that's very different from perhaps coordinating with Venezuela's
neighbors to -- there are a number of Venezuelan exile soldiers, for example, that are across the border. The Americans might be able to help
facilitate that -- yes?
GORANI: Ian, just if you could stand by. John Bolton, the national security advisor is speaking about Venezuela and then I'll get back to you.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
JOHN BOLTON, U.S. NATIONAL SECURITY ADVISOR: This is a very serious situation. The president has been monitoring it minute by minute
throughout the day as have his advisers.
[14:35:00] We see this now as a potentially dispositive moment in the efforts of the Venezuelan people to regain their freedom, which we fully
There have been a lot of speculation, comment in the media about what's happening in Venezuela. We think it's still very important for key figures
in the regime who had been talking to the opposition over these last three months to make good on their commitments to achieve the peaceful transfer
of power from the Maduro click to interim president, Juan Guaido.
Figures like defense minister Vladimir Padrino, chief judge of the Venezuelan Supreme Court, Maikel Moreno, the commander of the presidential
guard, Rafael Hernandez Dala, all agreed that Maduro had to go. They need to be able to act this afternoon or this evening to help bring other
military forces to the side of the interim president.
The Cubans, we believe, have played a very significant role in propping Maduro up today, possibly with help from the Russians, that's the
speculation, certainly, in Caracas. We think this demonstrates why we need Venezuela ruled by the people of Venezuela and not by external forces.
That's what we're looking at and I'd be happy to answer a few questions.
BOLTON: Well, Juan Guaido is out on the streets of Caracas now. He's rallying the people. He's called for the people to come out. And they are
-- they are increasingly on the streets as I think many of you know. There were mass demonstrations planned for tomorrow. The circumstances of what's
happened today in Caracas have called people out all over the country.
So Guaido is behaving in the same courageous way he and other figures in the opposition have these last three months. We know that over 40 people
have been killed by the Maduro regime in the course of these protests. This is an act of bravery by Guaido and others really for the freedom of
the Venezuelan people.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Ambassador, given what you've seen on the ground so far today and the degree of loyalty that Maduro still seems to enjoy from the
elements of the Venezuelan military, what do you think the chances that this uprising will work?
BOLTON: Well, I don't think its support in the military for the Maduro regime. I think its fear. I think its fear of the 20,000 to 25,000 Cuban
security forces in the country. I think its fear of the consequences if adhering to the constitutional mandate of the interim president fails.
But I think really, now, what we're seeing is the people of Venezuela, this has been building for a long time, that if this effort fails, they will
sink into a dictatorship from which there are very few possible alternatives. It's a very delicate moment.
I want to stress again, the president wants to see a peaceful transfer of power from Maduro to Guaido. That possibility still exists if enough
figures depart from the regime and support the opposition and that's what we would like to see. We want to see the Defense Minister Padrino, the
chief judge of the Supreme Court, Mikael Moreno, and particular, Rafael Hernandez Dala of the presidential guard. Yes, sir?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: What happens if Guaido is not able to take power today? What's the next step?
BOLTON: Well, I think it's possible. This situation could persist. I think the people have shown they're prepared to protect Guaido. We don't
see any indication that there's any substantial part of the military that's ready to fire on innocent civilians, their fellow countryman.
We know that the Cuban Colectivo, these thugs, these motorcycle gangs that the Cubans have put together, are out protecting certain buildings
controlled by Maduro, not the military but the Colectivos.
This really demonstrates the depths to which the Maduro regime had sunk that they're using these Cuban direct thugs to conduct their affairs. And
it's one reason why I think there's such overwhelming public support for Guaido. It needs to be translated into a transition of power.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Is the U.S. prepared to use any option including the military option to support Juan Guaido?
BOLTON: Let me say two things to be very clear, number one, we want as our principal objective, the peaceful transfer of power. But I will say again,
as the president has said from the outset and that Nicolas Maduro and those supporting him, particularly those who are not Venezuelan, should know, is
all options are on the table.
[14:40:00] UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: -- providing any support other than --
BOLTON: Sorry. Say that -- say that again.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Is the administration providing any other types of support other (INAUDIBLE)
BOLTON: We're providing support in a variety of respects. Certainly, we have done everything we can to get humanitarian assistance into the
country. We're doing a lot of other things, some of which I'm not going to talk about. And we're certainly working with the Lima group, the
organization of American state, the over 50 countries that support Guaido's legitimacy democratically.
And let me answer the last part of your question. This is clearly not a coup. We recognize Juan Guaido as the legitimate interim president of
Venezuela. And just as it's not a coup when the president of the United States gives an order to the department of defense, it's not a coup for
Juan Guaido to try and take command of the Venezuelan military. Yes, sir?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Ambassador, you said all options are on the table still for military action. And I wanted to ask you about a different military
action that you did advocate (INAUDIBLE) is that a mistake invading Iraq?
BOLTON: As I've said before, I've got a lot of opinions I've expressed over many years in the public space, those were my opinions. What I'm
speaking about now is the policy of the U.S. government and I've answered the question on force --
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Do you feel this moment that we're in right now is sort of a building block or do you think it is the moment, the tipping point as
to where something needs to happen?
BOLTON: 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 or remove 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. Yes, sir?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Can you just stress -- were you surprised, at all, by today's action? Were you given a heads-up and can you address reports from
Venezuela that some of the military officials that were supposed to support Guaido actually backed away when it was moved a day earlier?
BOLTON: I'll just say we feel very well informed about what's going on. And the point I was making a moment ago by naming specifically the defense
minister, Vladimir Padrino, the chief justice of the supreme court, Mikael Moreno, and the commander of the presidential guard, Hernandez Dala, as is
well known to the opposition, all across Venezuela, they committed the support ousting Maduro and it's time for them now, if the Cubans will let
them do it, to fulfill their commitments and it's time for the rest of the military to show what their own families believed what happened and that's
Maduro needs to go.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: My question, if actually Maduro forces fire against the people in Venezuela, Guaido's forces, will the United States and troops
or act in any -- use any kind of military action at this decisive moment?
BOLTON: Yes. Well, as I've said, all options remain on the table. I'm simply not going to be more specific to that. But recall that right at the
beginning, three months ago, we said that it would be a big mistake for Maduro and those supporting him to use force against innocent civilians.
We feel very strongly about it. We felt that way then. We feel that way now. Yes, ma'am?
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: We've seen video footage of protestors seemingly being run over by tanks in the streets in Venezuela. What is the point of
which you think enforce (INAUDIBLE)
BOLTON: Well, we're watching very carefully what's happening. As I say, we've been trying to explain to everybody who will listen that we want
people to go through with what they've agreed to do in terms of transitioning power.
I don't doubt that there are Colectivos, these motorcycle gangs organized by the Cubans and I don't doubt there's some in the Venezuelan military
itself who don't view the lives of their fellow Venezuelans highly.
We don't know exactly what the command structure is now other than probably it reports to Havana. I saw that film myself. It could be an isolated
incident. We're not going to draw conclusions imprudently. It's something that we want to stress as much as we can how closely we're following it and
how much we want this peaceful transfer of power to proceed. I'll just take one or two more. Yes, sir?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Why don't you (INAUDIBLE)
BOLTON: I'm sorry, I can't --
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: If you stand with Venezuela, why didn't the U.S. given them temporary protection status?
BOLTON: Look, we have that question under review. Obviously, our hope is that we can get a change in the regime in Caracas as soon as possible so
that Venezuelans can return and help rebuild their country. We don't want to send anybody back into what is now, obviously, an even more dangerous
situation. And that's the policy we've been doing. Yes, ma'am?
[14:45:09] UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Have you or the president spoken with Juan Guaido? And given the sort of influence of the Russians here, as the
president spoken with their plan this week Putin -- or your Russian counterparts?
BOLTON: Well, I'd rather not get into those kinds of conversations. I can tell you, we've made it clear to Russia in both public and private
statements throughout this that we regard the actions that they've taken in Venezuela as something that we regard with the utmost seriousness.
And particularly now when innocent Venezuelans civilian lives are on the line, we expect the Russians not to interfere in what's happening in
Venezuela. Yes, ma'am? Yes, ma'am?
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: And if they did (INAUDIBLE) is the White House considering an executive order, something to protect Venezuela from
BOLTON: Well, we have followed in the financial markets all of the consequences of the sanctions we've imposed. We're looking to follow
through with more specifics on those right along and so there are a number of steps that are in preparation. I should also say that we have been
planning for what we call the day after, the day after Maduro for quite some time.
And indeed, we're thinking of having a briefing on Thursday or Friday of this week. I think we may speed that up, but we wanted to point out that
it's been very much on our mind that we can provide a lot of assistance to the Guaido government when it assumes power to try and get the Venezuelan
economy out of the ditch that Maduro has put it in.
Those plans obviously were moving ahead on trying to refine them here in these recent days because things might move quickly.
Let me just take one more question.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Sir, how close this administration to labeling the Muslim brotherhood and terrorist group?
BOLTON: That's not a question about Venezuela. I'll take one Venezuela question. Yes, sir?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Thanks, Mr. Ambassador. Let's say this works, Guaido takes power, everything is as the administration would like. Will the
administration turn its attention to other (INAUDIBLE) say Russia, Turkey (INAUDIBLE) to human rights, sir?
BOLTON: Well, I just say in this hemisphere, we've called out the Troika of Tyranny, Venezuela, Nicaragua, and Cuba. There's no doubt that Cuba, in
particular, has benefitted from the authoritarian government in Venezuela by getting below world market oil prices. That's going to cease once
Guaido takes power.
But our focus right now, as you can well understand, for the benefit of the people of Venezuela and because of the interest of the United States, is on
this peaceful transition of power in Venezuela.
Thank you very much.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Thank you.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
GORANI: The American national security adviser, John Bolton, there calling on key figures in Venezuela to make good on commitments to ensure a
peaceful transition of power from Nicolas Maduro to Juan Guaido. He's specifically mentioned the defense minister who today reiterated the army's
support for Maduro, Vladimir Padrino, calling what Guaido, Juan Guaido has done an act of bravery.
Ian Bremmer is still with us. Thanks for staying with us and being patient there through this.
What was your main takeaway from what John Bolton said? He said the president, as well, supports a peaceful transition?
BREMMER: Yes. Literally, no change in what he's had to say just now from what he's been saying over the last few weeks. Again, reiterating the
point that I made before, that they weren't ready for this. This was a surprise to the Trump administration and the U.S. government.
They're making the same calls for those supporting Maduro to leave him. But he did not sound in any way in that presentation optimistic that he
believed that Guaido was about to persevere and succeed in removing Maduro, nor did I hear any policies or plans that might be put in place to help
I'm not just talking militarily. There's been it seems like very little diplomacy that's happened between the U.S. and other allies in responding
to today's moves. And so far, at least, the Venezuelan military remains pretty solidly behind this President Maduro.
GORANI: He wouldn't answer the question about whether or not the -- the president or anyone else in the administration had spoken to Juan Guaido,
either before he called on the military to switch sides and the people to support him or after.
So what's next here for the United States? I mean, Russia is clearly supporting Maduro. They have some Russian military assets in the country.
What happens now?
[14:50:59] BREMMER: I thought it was interesting that Bolton was careful. He pointed out the Cubans on many occasions. He talked about the
Colectivos and said they were all backed by Cubans, that's true. It was also backed by Venezuelan street gangs. They're doing some of the dirty
work for Maduro, these militias.
But he didn't want to point out the Russians particularly strongly. I think in part it's because the Russians have shown behind the scenes that
they would like to be part of a diplomatic engagement. They want to make sure they have a seat at the table in case Maduro does go away and I think
Bolton is hopeful that the Russians can be enticed if there is progress. But right now, there is not progress. Right now, it's very dangerous.
The fact that Guaido had his hand forced to move ahead with this effort to remove Maduro today means that if he's unsuccessful, the likelihood that he
eventually gets arrested or is forced into exile goes up significantly.
Maduro's not -- Maduro doesn't need to feel like he's going to live with Guaido in opposition sitting there in his country after he's backed the
Americans down and succeeded in resisting a call internally for what he would perceive as a coup.
So definitely, tensions have escalated significantly. But the danger, the risks that have been taken on in the last 24 hours have been taken on by
GORANI: Thanks so much, Ian Bremmer, for joining us this evening on our breaking news story there.
The crisis unfolding in Venezuela. You're seeing live images there from the streets of Caracas. We'll be right back.
GORANI: Back to our breaking news. We've been following the struggle for control of Venezuela. Here are some key sights and sounds from the past
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
GORANI: Huge crowds have taken to the streets of Caracas after getting word that some members of the military are now supporting the effort to
overthrow Nicolas Maduro.
The opposition leader, Juan Guaido, told supporters that the military is now on their side, but it appears that is only partially true. Forces
loyal to Maduro fired tear gas at some protestors.
GORANI: Gunfire has been heard in some parts of the capitol. We also saw some very disturbing pictures of military vehicles involved in clashes with
civilians. One of them plowing into protestors.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
Embattled President Maduro remains defiant. In his message posted on Twitter earlier today, he says he has the total loyalty of Venezuela's
military. He ends by saying, "we will win."
Mr. Maduro still has the support of some international allies. Russia and Turkey have both condemned the opposition over the events. Cuba as well.
Joining me now is Eva Golinger in New York. She's a former advisor to the late Venezuelan president, Hugo Chavez.
What's going on? The Maduro government is -- we saw some armored vehicles plowing into protestors, mowing people down, gunfire, tear gas, why are
they using such repressive force here?
EVA GOLINGER, AMERICAN-VENEZUELAN LAWYER: Well, I can't respond exactly for the actions of the Maduro government, but clearly there are violent up
risings and there's what many would consider an attempted coup underway in Venezuela. Certainly the government is responding to force to the violent
uprising against it. And also because now we've seen that some of the military have joined with the opposition in this coup effort that's
[14:55:15] But I think that overall what military we've been seeing over the past few months as this situation has been unraveling in the country,
is that more and more the military forces are unwilling to repress the people. They may not necessarily join with the opposition or want to fall
under what is seen largely as a U.S.-backed coup or U.S. backed regime of Juan Guaido.
GORANI: Well, we heard from the U.S., John Bolton said he wants a peaceful transition. Some observes, Eric Farnsworth, for instance of the Council of
the Americas, says the actual coup that happened in Venezuela was on January 10th when Maduro self-appointed himself for another term to which
he was not entitled.
GOLINGER: Again, that's contested. There were millions of Venezuelans that voted for Nicolas Maduro last year. The elections can be looked at in
a fraudulent light.
But again, you can't discount the fact that there are millions of Venezuelans who have supported Maduro and continue to reject a U.S.-backed
opposition. They do not want to join forces with an opposition that they see largely as being pushed in by the United States and by this
administration in particular of Donald Trump.
I mean, I think that that's what we're seeing is that there may have been higher level military officials who were considering aligning with an
effort to oust Maduro from power and seek a peaceful transition.
But as soon as the U.S. starts speaking out and backing that opposition and saying -- hence, that opposition is calling for U.S. support and possibly
military intervention, there's a lot of very loyal Venezuelan military forces who don't want to be seen as betraying their nation and the
sovereignty of their country.
GORANI: But is it not a bit of a stretch to say that these top military leaders were considering joining the opposition until John Bolton or Mike
Pompeo tweeted something?
GOLINGER: I'm not sure I would say that they were considering joining the opposition. But I would say that Venezuelans are at a breaking point and
everyone is looking for a way out of the situation.
But there's a large sector of Venezuelans that are underreported in all of the situation, which are those that backed Hugo Chavez and continue to
reject the opposition, both would like to see Maduro out of power.
So I think that those voices need to be considered as well in any type of transition that takes place in the country from the Maduro government to
government that would follow.
GORANI: And, Eva, what's important here to underline is this is untenable. You can't have a country operate like this. What -- how do you get out of
it? How do you untangle this country from this -- worst-case scenario, you could have real civil unrest here in the country so divided with violence
that it could descend into something much worse.
GOLINGER: I think there's a lot of misunderstanding of Venezuela and the also of the resilience of the Venezuela people.
You know, back in January when this first began, there were those commentators in media and spokespeople from the United States government
saying that that was it, the end was near, Maduro was over. Nevertheless, here we are in April. So -- and there's a lot of Venezuelans I've been
talking to Friends and family on the ground who say that there's normalcy where they are in the country. People push through. They continue on with
their daily lives. It is unsustainable in the long term.
But, again, you cannot discount the voices of millions of Venezuelans who are absent largely from the narrative that's being portrayed in mass media.
And those are Venezuelans who supported Chavez, who initially supported Maduro and who do not support a U.S.-backed opposition.
GORANI: Eva Golinger, thanks very much for joining us on CNN.
GOLINGER: Thank you.
GORANI: We'll be right back after a quick break.