(Reuters) - Venezuela’s Foreign Minister Jorge Arreaza on Tuesday denied there was a military coup attempt underway to oust President Nicolas Maduro and accused opposition leader Juan Guaido of operating under orders from Washington.
“It is not a coup attempt from the military. This is directly planned in Washington, in the Pentagon and Department of State, and by Bolton,” Arreaza told Reuters in a phone interview from Caracas, referring to U.S. national security adviser John Bolton.
“They are leading this coup and giving orders to this man (Juan) Guaido,” he said.
He said Maduro, who has been in power since 2013, was in full control of the country with the backing of the military, after Guaido called for a military uprising and armed factions exchanged gunfire outside a Caracas air base.
“He is in his place of command as always, and he is in control of the situation. He is making government decisions as he does every day,” said Arreaza, adding that he had spoken to Maduro four or five times on Tuesday.
Asked why Maduro had not been seen in public on Tuesday, Arreaza said: “You will see President Maduro in Miraflores sooner rather than later.”
The latest violence comes after a standoff between Maduro, backed by Russia, China and Cuba, and Guaido, who has the support of the United States and some dozens of countries that have recognised him as Venezuela’s interim president.
Washington has imposed sanctions to try to dislodge Maduro, who has appeared to retain control of state institutions and the loyalty of senior military officers.
He has called Guaido a U.S.-backed puppet who seeks to oust him in a coup.
Arreaza, who was sanctioned by Washington last week, said the Venezuelan government would act to maintain peace and security.
“We are not threatening anyone with the use of violence. It’s the United States, it’s the opposition,” said Arreaza, saying he had spoken to representatives from countries in the region and in Europe who expressed concern about the situation. He declined to name the countries.
Reporting by Lesley Wroughton, Editing by Rosalba O'Brien and Jonathan Oatis