Live Venezuela updates: Uncertainty as government and opposition call for protests

Venezuelan leader Nicolás Maduro remains in control of the country’s military a day after opposition leaders called for an uprising.
Venezuelan leader Nicolás Maduro remains in control of the country’s military a day after opposition leaders called for an uprising. EFE

Venezuelan leader Nicolás Maduro remains in control of the country’s military a day after opposition leaders called for an uprising, setting the stage for opposing demonstrations in the nation’s capital Wednesday.

Tuesday morning’s call to action from Interim President Juan Guaidó sparked marches in the streets of Caracas and an impassioned reaction from South Florida’s Venezuelan exile community. As the day wore on, anxious anticipation faded into quiet resignation after police broke up groups of demonstrators and uncertainty settled in as it became apparent Guaidó did not have the backing of Venezuela’s military. Top military officials remained with Maduro.

Both men have called for their supporters to rally Wednesday. U.S. officials are watching closely as President Donald Trump has threatened to increase sanctions against Cuba, which has worked to keep Maduro in power. National Security Adviser John Bolton said “all options are on the table” regarding U.S. intervention, though there is no indication the U.S. is planning to send troops at this time.

In Miami, Venezuelan expats continue to watch and wait for updates in the news, on social media and directly from family and friends in their homeland.

‘They don’t have food. They don’t have medicines.’

10:30 a.m.: Jesús Aranguren, 81, was an economics professor at the University of Zulia in his hometown of Maracaibo before he relocated to the U.S. 18 years ago.

On Wednesday, he made his daily stop at El Arepazo Original in Doral with his friend Raul López after their morning walking routine, then stayed to help boost the spirits of fellow Venezuelans who may have lost hope after yesterday’s events.

“I’ve been in touch with my family in Venezuela using Whatsapp, and they aren’t so much scared as they are angry,’ said Aranguren, who has four sisters, a brother and eight nieces and nephews in the country.

“They don’t have food. They don’t have medicines. They don’t have school for their kids,” he said. “They are desperate. They are all planning to demonstrate today, even if it means risking their lives, because they can’t go on with the way things are now.”

Back to daily routine

9 a.m.: In Doral, a city in West Miami-Dade with a large Venezuelan population, the mood was more muted Wednesday.

The atmosphere at El Arepazo restaurant, which became a community rallying site on Tuesday, had returned to its normal weekday morning routine, with regulars dropping by for breakfast on their way to work.

Few paid attention to the nine flat-screen TVs around the dining area, which were all tuned to live news broadcasts of the situation in Venezuela.

Jesus Alvarez, 32, lives in Hialeah Gardens but stopped by the restaurant on Wednesday morning as a sign of support for his Venezuelan friends.

“I’m here because as a Cuban, I’m embarrassed by the bad people who govern my country, who are behind this whole mess,” said Alvarez, who works as a handyman.

“From the first time I heard Maduro speak, I’ve been telling my Venezuelan friends to get ready for what was coming,” he said. “They should have done what they did yesterday during the last protest, when they had a million people out in the street. No one could have stopped them then. I don’t think they’ll have another chance like that one again.”

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Few people dined at El Arepazo Original in Doral on Wednesday morning, the day after the restaurant hosted an impassioned crowd of supporters for Venezuela’s Interim President Juan Guaidó and his calls for an uprising — an effort that galvanized opposition but has not led to a change in power in the South American nation. Rene Rodriguez rrodriguez@miamiherald.com

Trump’s saber-rattling risks expectations of U.S. force if violence escalates

8 a.m.: Regime change in Venezuela would be a momentous victory for Trump. But after backing an outgunned and outmanned opposition leader and bluffing for months at the possibility of military intervention, Trump has also backed himself into something of a corner.

He’s risked creating dangerous expectations that he’ll use force if push comes to shove in a country where both Russia and Cuba are deeply invested. And with the Venezuelan military literally driving over protesters in the streets, there is already pressure building for him to send in troops.

Read more from Miami Herald political reporter David Smiley.