Right-wing opposition leader Henrique Capriles on Tuesday called on the Venezuela's military to rebel against the government of Nicolas Maduro, invoking the likelihood of violence as the opposition planned Wednesday mobilizations to demand the expedition of a presidential recall referendum.
“Prepare the tanks and war planes,” Capriles said, adding that “the hour of truth is coming to decide whether you are with the constitution or with Maduro."
“This will be a decision that the Bolivarian Armed Forces will have to take.”
Capriles, who has lost the last two presidential elections heading up the opposition MUD coalition, held a news conference during which he disavowed the state of emergency decreed by Maduro, which was later discussed and rejected in the opposition-controlled National Assembly.
“I call on Venezuelans not to recognize this decree,” said Capriles, calling the measure null and unconstitutional. The 60-day decree was issued as threats of foreign intervention were floated by foreign politicians, including former Colombian President Alvaro Uribe.
The opposition leader, who also called for nationwide marches on Wednesday to demand that electoral authorities move preparations forward or a recall referendum against Maduro, threatened that if the government wants to implement the state of exception by presidential decree it will have to do so “by force.”
Capriles also pointed to the military leadership, calling them the "adversaries" of Venezuela's opposition.
“The Armed Forces are living the crisis,” he added during the question period, arguing that the military leadership are “full of privileges” and should not be confused with the soldiers, who he said are “not the enemy.”
The statements come after Capriles' comments last week, where the Miranda state governor suggested that violence could break out if opposition demands around the recall process are not met. "If you block democratic means, we do not know what can happen in this country," Capriles said. "Venezuela is a bomb that can explode at any moment."
The opposition leader has been accused of stroking political violence in the past.
Following his 2013 election loss to Maduro, Capriles refused to recognize the results and called on supporters to take to the streets and "discharge your anger." In the ensuing violence, at least 7 people were killed and 61 injured.
Capriles also said that opposition supporters will continue to take to the streets to demand that the National Electoral Council expedite the process to schedule a recall referendum, starting with the validation of signatures submitted.
However the governing Socialist Party have already accused the opposition of submitting fraudulent names. “They said they delivered 1.85 million of signatures. However, almost 190,000 of them were deceased people," said Jorge Rodriguez, head of the United Socialist Party of Venezuela.
The opposition is pushing for the vote to happen as soon as possible. If a recall referendum takes place in 2017, the country's vice president would take over for the remainder of the presidential term, whereas a successful 2016 recall referendum would mean snap elections for a new president.
Opposition protests are scheduled in cities across the country on Wednesday, including a march in Caracas from Plaza Venezuela to the National Electoral Council at 10:00 a.m. local time.