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Venezuelan President Maduro Denies Claims He Was Ready To Flee

DAVID GREENE, HOST:

All right. Let's turn now to Venezuela where the opposition leader there, Juan Guaido, is making a direct plea for people to oust President Nicolas Maduro.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

JUAN GUAIDO: (Speaking Spanish).

GREENE: This video was posted on social media last night after yet another day of violent clashes. Guaido urged his supporters to take to the streets once again today. He's also calling for the military to defect.

Now, Guaido has the backing of the Trump administration. This is Secretary of State Mike Pompeo speaking to CNN yesterday saying this.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

MIKE POMPEO: It's been a long time since anyone has seen Maduro. He had an airplane on the tarmac. He was ready to leave this morning as we understand it and the Russians indicated he should stay. We think the situation remains incredibly fluid. We know that there were senior leaders inside the Maduro government that were prepared to leave. They told us as much over the past few weeks. And we're convinced that the Venezuelan people are going to get their democracy back.

GREENE: And I'm joined now by Mariana Zuniga. She has been reporting on the situation for NPR. She's in Venezuela.

Good morning.

MARIANA ZUNIGA, BYLINE: Good morning.

GREENE: So Pompeo, as we just heard, suggesting that no one had seen Maduro yesterday, but last night, at least, he was on state television with a message. What did the president have to say about all this?

ZUNIGA: Well, yeah. After several hours - because many people, just as Pompeo, were asking themselves, where is Maduro? Where is Maduro? But after almost 12 hours of silence, Maduro appeared on state TV and saying that everything was under control, saying that the coup - what he call a coup was defeated. He said that an investigation to look for the responsible is under way. And he said that 80% of the military who were with Guaido yesterday at dawn were misleaded and they didn't know what they were doing.

GREENE: Well, I mean, you say that he is calling it a coup. Of course, Guaido is saying that this is - he is fighting for democracy and he has a legitimate claim to be interim president. What do Venezuelans think of all of this, as you talk to people?

ZUNIGA: Well, many Venezuelans, especially those who were at the streets yesterday, they were excited. Many were saying this is it. This is the end. We need to take the streets and continue struggling next to Guaido. Others were saying, no, this is not going to happen. It will take several days. There is a mix of hopefulness and confusion in the streets of Venezuela right now.

GREENE: And I guess it's worth just saying, this is a country that has been through so much. Not just political turmoil but a lot of people have been struggling so much economically for so long.

ZUNIGA: Yeah. Venezuela has been in an economic crisis for five years now. These are going to make - crises has caused many injuries in the population - shortages of food, shortages of medicine - a humanitarian crisis.

Many people have died because of the lack of medicines. Many disease that were not in Venezuela anymore return. We're seeing, like, a real chaos in this country for the past years and also, like, a migration that is - that many people have compared to the Syrian one. So for the neighbors and for many people, it is necessary that the situation in Venezuela will be resolved very soon.

GREENE: That's Mariana Zuniga, reporting from Venezuela on the situation this morning. Mariana, thanks so much.

ZUNIGA: You're welcome. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.