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Soldiers and protestors loyal to the opposition take cover near Carlota air base. Photo: Rafael Hernandez/picture alliance via Getty Images

Venezuelan National Assembly President Juan Guaidó has taken to the streets alongside newly freed opposition politician Leopoldo López to call on the military to rise up and topple President Nicolás Maduro, a bold step that comes three months into a fierce power struggle.

The backdrop: Guaidó declared himself Venezuela’s interim president in January and was swiftly recognized by the U.S. and a string of other countries, but Maduro has maintained his hold on power. The Trump administration and senior members of Congress have backed today’s high-risk move, while senior members of the Venezuelan regime have denounced what they’ve described as a futile "coup attempt."

López, one of Venezuela’s best-known politicians, was detained in 2014 for organizing anti-Maduro protests and had been under house arrest. He claimed to have been freed "by members of the security forces responding to an order by Guaidó," per the AP.

  • Venezuela’s foreign minister has since said the U.S. likely paid a guard to free López.
The scene in Caracas
  • “As [López] spoke on a highway overpass, troops loyal to Maduro sporadically fired tear gas from inside the adjacent Carlota air base as the crowd of a few hundred civilians, some of them brandishing Venezuelan flags, scurried for cover,” the AP reports.
  • "The crowd swelled to a few thousand as people sensed what could be their strongest opportunity yet to overthrow the government after months of turmoil that has seen Maduro withstand an onslaught of protests and international pressure with the support of his top military command and allies such as Russia and Cuba."
  • "The dramatic events playing out in the opposition’s stronghold in wealthier eastern Caracas appeared not to have triggered a broader military revolt."

The latest: An armored military vehicle rammed into pro-Guaidó protesters in Caracas. Meanwhile protesters broke through a fence and into the military base where this morning's uprising took place, per Bloomberg. News coverage shows billows of smoke coming from the base.

A tweet previously embedded here has been deleted or was tweeted from an account that has been suspended or deleted.

The big picture: As the world has waited for a decisive moment in the Maduro-Guaidó showdown, the suffering of the Venezuelan people has only intensified. The U.S. has ratcheted up sanctions, arguing that Venezuela’s economic crisis will never end until Maduro leaves power. But it’s not the only power with a stake in the outcome — Russia has sent troops in support of Maduro, and China has also defended the regime.

Go deeper

Updated 3 hours ago - Health

California surpasses 50,000 COVID-19 deaths

A man prepares a funeral arrangement in in Los Angeles, California, Feb. 12. Photo: Mario Tama/Getty Images

California's death toll from COVID-19 surpassed 50,000 on Wednesday, per Johns Hopkins data.

The big picture: It's the first state to record more than 50,000 deaths from the coronavirus.

5 hours ago - Technology

Facebook bans Myanmar military

A protester holds a placard with a three-finger salute in front of a military tank parked aside the street in front of the Central Bank building during a demonstration in Yangon, Myanmar. Photo by Aung Kyaw Htet/SOPA Images/LightRocket via Getty Images

Facebook said on Wednesday it would ban the rest of the Myanmar military from its platform.

The big picture: It comes some three weeks after the military overthrew the civilian government in a coup and detained leader Aung San Suu Kyi, causing massive protests to erupt throughout the country. Military leaders have been using internet blackouts to try to maintain power in light of the coup.

It's harder to fill the Cabinet

Data: Chamberlain, 2020, "United States of America Cabinet Appointments Dataset" Chart: Will Chase/Axios

It's harder now for presidents to win Senate confirmation for their Cabinet picks, an Axios data analysis of votes for and against nominees found.

Why it matters: It's not just Neera Tanden. The trend is a product of growing polarization, rougher political discourse and slimming Senate majorities, experts say. It means some of the nation's most vital federal agencies go without a leader and the legislative authority that comes with one.