(CNSNews.com) – After months of protests, the effort to oust Socialist President Nicolas Maduro from Venezuela appears to be under way.
Secretary of State Mike Pompeo tweeted on Tuesday morning: "Today interim President Juan Guaido announced start of Operación Libertad. The U.S. Government fully supports the Venezuelan people in their quest for freedom and democracy. Democracy cannot be defeated."
Press reports said Guaido, the Venezuelan opposition leader, announced at dawn that he was "beginning the final phase of Operation Freedom," with support from some military units. An official with the Maduro regime called it a coup.
Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.) issued a number of tweets supporting Guaido on Tuesday morning:
After years of suffering freedom is waiting for people of #Venezuela. Do not let them take this opportunity from you. Now is the moment to take to the streets in support of your legitimate constitutional government. Do not allow this moment to slip away. It may not come again.
Today their (sic) can be no bystanders in #Venezuela. #FANB, police, judicial & political leaders you must either support restoring constitutional democracy or you are a supporter of Cuba’s efforts to colonize Venezuela. The choice you make will define the rest of your life.
Counselor to the President Kellyanne Conway told Fox News Tuesday morning, "We stand with the people of Venezuela and it's time for Maduro to go. We've made that very clear. We certainly support a peaceful transition."
Conway noted that 3 million people have fled Venezuela to neighboring countries in an effort to escape starvation at home.
"This is a disgrace against humanity," Conway said. "We're going to stand with the people until, of course, they are free. And they are free from the grips of this mad man in power, Maduro.
Conway refused to say if the Venezuelan military is heeding Guaido's call to expel Maduro.
"That I'm not going to comment on. I'm just going to say that we believe there can be a peaceful transition of power, and that you've seen the Maduros around the world who just cling to their power, no matter how they treated their own people. And it's just time for him to go. The vice president has made this clear over the last year, the president. We have certainly welcomed Mr. Guaido's wife here recently and others, of course, who we refer to as freedom fighters, if you will."
Conway didn't have anything to say about Maduro's whereabouts: "We are watching and we're waiting. And we hope the result is democracy and freedom for the people. The president has made very clear all around this world that America first is not America alone. And that we will stand in the breach when people like the Venezuelans are suffering and they're suffering from a lack of food and medicine and having basic needs met."
Conway noted that Venezuela, with its oil resources, was once a wealthy nation:
"And now you've seen what people in power who try to hang on to power and wealth for themselves and not share it with their own people, what's happened. There's been an exodus of Venezuelans. And we stand with the Venezuelan people, and we stand with Juan Guaido, let me make that very clear.”