Venezuelan opposition vies for momentum as Maduro appears immovable

Power imbalance on display in Venezuela

Venezuelan opposition leader Juan Guaido called for new demonstrations on Wednesday after a day of violent street protests that began with his call for the country's military commanders to join him and turn against President Nicolas Maduro. Maduro's military brass did not heed the call, and by Tuesday evening the embattled president had declared what he dubbed an attempted "coup" against him quashed.

Armored vehicles driving by Maduro's forces plowed through crowds of protesters on Tuesday as the government battled to contain the unrest.

Members of the large Venezuelan community in Miami, Florida, gathered to watch the turmoil in their home country unfold on television monitors. CBS News correspondent Adriana Diaz said that while many Venezuelans in the U.S. support opposition leader Juan Guaido, his so called "Operation Freedom" appears to have garnered only limited support from Venezuela's military thus far.

Guaido called for the protests to continue on Wednesday, tweeting with a hashtag in Spanish that translates; "With everyone to the streets!"

But Maduro appeared on Venezuelan state television overnight alongside the country's top military leaders, in a show of solidarity, and defiance.

Venezuela's President Nicolas Maduro speaks during a broadcast at Miraflores Palace in Caracas
Venezuela's President Nicolas Maduro speaks during a broadcast with members of the government and military high command members at Miraflores Palace in Caracas, Venezuela April 30, 2019. HANDOUT/REUTERS

He declared his forces on "maximum alert," ready to put down any new challenge to his rule.

In Washington, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo claimed on Tuesday that Maduro is being propped up by foreign forces, including those of Russia and Cuba.

"We literally had Nicolas Maduro getting prepared to get on his airplane and head out of the country before he was stopped," Pompeo said. "He was stopped really at the direction of the Russians."  

Maduro has said that never happened, and Russia dismissed the claim as part of the "information war" being waged by the U.S. government and others in their bid to topple the Venezuelan leader.

Clashes erupt in Venezuela after opposition leader calls for uprising

The power imbalance was on display as protesters faced Maduro's forces in their armored military vehicles on Tuesday, charging into the crowds. There have been no deaths confirmed from the day of chaos, but at least 69 people were injured.

In his early morning video appeal, posted online early Tuesday morning, Guaido called on the "brave soldiers, brave patriots" of his nation to rise up against Maduro. He was flanked in the video by roughly two dozen military sympathizers.

CBS News spoke to a Venezuelan soldier in February who predicted cracks in Maduro's support among the rank-and-file soldiers, who are suffering from the famine and poverty Maduro has overseen for years.

Asked by CBS News senior foreign correspondent Elizabeth Palmer what it would take to prompt a mass-defection from Maduro's military, the National Guardsman said, "all we need is a high ranking general to rebel, to lead the way."

Two months later, and in spite of Guaido's efforts -- which have the support of the U.S. government -- that hasn't happened yet, and the unrest appeared likely to continue.