Venezuelan Vice President Tarek El Aissami on Thursday slammed ongoing opposition protests in the South American country, claiming the violent demonstrations are part of a U.S.-backed coup plot to topple the socialist government.
El Aissami, who heads the country’s Anti-Coup Command, claims right-wing protesters were planning to create “guarimbas” nearby the Miraflores presidential palace in Caracas. Guarimbas are street blockades created by masked protesters who burn tires and other garbage to throw at police.
Opposition protesters began using the violent tactic in 2014 during the right-wing “La Salida” campaign, which left over 40 people dead.
“We have arrested 30 guarimberos who tried to sow chaos in the capital,” El Aissami said, VTV reports.
“They said they were going to concentrate their protests along the Altamira highway, but they already had plans to reach the center (Caracas) to create violence.”
El Aissami said the guarimberos were planning to generate enough violence in downtown Caracas to promote international intervention. Protesters faced off with police on Caracas’ main highway, launching rocks and molotov cocktails. Army vehicles were eventually called in, retaliating with water cannons and tear gas.
Elsewhere in Caracas, Chavistas held a march “in defense of the Patria,” led by United Socialist Party of Venezuela Vice President Diosdado Cabello. During the rally, Cabello said that the only guarantee of peace for the Venezuelan people is in the Bolivarian Revolution.
The right-wing protests have since been neutralized by the National Guard and Caracas police.
“We have defeated the intentions of the right wing early, but we must warn the followers of the opposition: you must respect the Constitution,” he added.
El Aissami’s claims reinforce earlier reports of US-backed interventionist efforts in Venezuela.
On Tuesday, Uruguay's former Defense Minister Jose Bayardi accused Organization of American States Secretary-General Luis Almagro of “coordinating” with the U.S. to destabilize and overthrow Venezuela’s government, La Red 21 reports.
Bayardi, head of international affairs for Uruguay’s Broad Front coalition, said OAS attempts to suspend the socialist country’s membership are a campaign of “Operation Venezuela Freedom,” a U.S. military operation aimed at overthrowing the Bolivarian Revolution.
The operation promotes violence among right-wing opposition protesters in an effort to destabilize the government, thus leading to possible foreign intervention.