Defiant Maduro appears with soldiers

(BBC) – In a show of defiance against his opponents, Venezuelan president Nicolás Maduro appeared flanked by soldiers at an army base in Caracas on Thursday.

Mr Maduro called on the armed forces to oppose “any coup plotter”, as clashes between opposition supporters and pro-government forces continued.

Opposition leader Juan Guaidó tried on Wednesday to spark a military defection and force Mr Maduro from office.

Mr Guaidó has urged public employees to strike to undermine the government.

But Mr Maduro praised the army’s loyalty on Thursday, calling on the military to unite in a defence of the constitution. “No one dare touch our sacred ground or bring war to Venezuela”, he said.

In January, Mr Guaidó declared himself Venezuela’s interim leader and he has the support of more than 50 countries including the US, UK and most Latin America nations.

As the head of the opposition-controlled National Assembly, he invoked the constitution to assume an interim presidency, arguing that Mr Maduro’s re-election last year was illegitimate.

But Mr Maduro – who is backed by Russia, China and the leaders of Venezuela’s military – has refused to cede power.

The president dismissed a claim by US defence secretary Mike Pompeo that he had been ready to flee the country, and accused the US of directing an attempted coup.