The head of Venezuela’s secret police has broken ranks with embattled President Nicolas Maduro as the country braces for a second day violence following the turmoil surrounding a military uprising.
Opposition leader Juan Guaido took a bold step to revive his movement to seize power in Venezuela, taking to the streets on Tuesday to call for a military uprising that drew quick support from the Trump administration and fierce resistance from forces loyal to Maduro.
In a possible sign that Maduro’s inner circle could be fracturing, the head of Venezuela’s secret police wrote a letter on Tuesday breaking ranks with the embattled leader.
In a letter directed to the Venezuelan people, Manuel Ricardo Cristopher Figuera – the head of Venezuela’s feared SEBIN intelligence agency – said he had always been loyal to Maduro but now it is time to ‘rebuild the country’.
He said corruption has become so rampant that ‘many high-ranking public servants practice it like a sport’.
‘The hour has arrived for us to look for other ways of doing politics,’ Figuera wrote.
The authenticity of the letter circulating on social media was confirmed by a senior U.S. official.
In a Tuesday night appearance on national television, Maduro declared that the opposition had attempted to impose an ‘illegitimate government’ with the support of the U.S. and neighboring Colombia.
Maduro said that the unrest had been quelled and that Venezuela wouldn’t succumb to right-wing forces intent on ‘submitting our country to a neocolonial economic domination model and enslaving Venezuela.’
‘Now you can see a Venezuela largely in peace,’ he proclaimed.
Venezuelans waited to see if that remained the case Wednesday.
Meanwhile, Guaido sought to keep the momentum going at the end of the day by releasing his own video message in which he pressed Venezuelans to take to the streets again on Wednesday.
The competing quests to solidify a hold on power capped a dramatic day that included a tense moment when several armored vehicles plowed into a group of anti-government demonstrators trying to storm the capital’s air base, hitting at least two protesters.
The stunning events began early Tuesday when Guaido, flanked by a few dozen national guardsmen and some armored crowd-control vehicles, released a three minute video shot near the Carlota airbase