Ten days of turmoil in Venezuela

Caracas (AFP) –


Crisis-hit Venezuela has been plunged into new turmoil since January 21, with the US and other countries backing an opposition leader's claim to have replaced President Nicolas Maduro.

Here is a recap of developments.

- Call to revolt -

On January 21 a small group of soldiers takes control of a command post north of Caracas, releasing a video rejecting Maduro's regime and calling on people to take to the streets.

The rebellion is put down quickly and 27 soldiers are arrested, but there are demonstrations of support in Caracas.

Hours later the Supreme Court declares that the decisions of opposition-controlled National Assembly are invalid. The assembly had days earlier promised an amnesty to soldiers who abandoned Maduro.

- US backs opposition -

On January 22 US Vice President Mike Pence brands Maduro "a dictator with no legitimate claim to power" and tells the opposition, "We are with you."

Washington and other countries have dismissed as fraudulent the May 2018 election that gave Maduro a second term.

Maduro accuses Washington of ordering a coup.

- Self-proclaimed 'acting president' -

On January 23 tens of thousands of people protest in Caracas and other cities in rival demonstrations for and against Maduro. Clashes erupt.

In front of cheering supporters, National Assembly head Juan Guaido proclaims himself "acting president", pledging a transitional government and free elections.

US President Donald Trump immediately recognizes Guaido, followed by Brazil, Canada and Colombia, among around a dozen other countries.

However China, Cuba, Mexico, Russia and Turkey voice support for Maduro, who breaks off diplomatic ties with Washington.

On January 24 Venezuela's powerful military high command throws its weight behind Maduro.

- European ultimatum -

On January 26 several European powers say they will recognize Guaido as president unless Maduro calls elections within eight days. Caracas rejects the ultimatum.

US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo urges all nations to end financial dealings with Maduro.

Venezuela's military attache to Washington, Army Colonel Jose Luis Silva, breaks ranks with Maduro, becoming the first major military officer to publicly switch support.

On January 27 Maduro calls on soldiers to show "union, discipline and cohesion".

Copies of amnesty measures drawn up by the Guaido-led assembly are circulated to members of the military, some of whom publicly burn the document.

- Guaido barred from leaving -

On January 28 the United States imposes sanctions on Venezuela's state oil company PDVSA, preventing it from trading with US firms and freezing its assets abroad.

On January 29 Washington says it has handed control of Venezuela's bank accounts in the United States to Guaido.

In Caracas, the supreme court bars Guaido from leaving Venezuela and freezes his accounts.

The opposition-controlled legislature names "diplomatic representatives" to a dozen countries that have recognized Guaido as interim president.

The UN says protests in the week after the soldiers' brief uprising had left more than 40 people dead and record numbers arrested.

- Opposition marches -

On January 30 Maduro says he would support early parliamentary elections but not presidential ones.

Thousands of opposition protesters, led by Guaido, call on the military to abandon Maduro and allow humanitarian aid into the country.

"The fight for freedom has begun!" Trump tweets.

Maduro again calls on the armed forces for unity.

- European Parliament backs Guaido -

On January 31 the European Parliament urges the EU to recognize Guaido, ahead of his presentation of an economic and social rescue plan for the battered country.

France and Spain demand the release of five foreign journalists detained in Venezuela as part of a crackdown on international media.