At least two “terrorists” were killed during an attack on a Venezuelan army base, President Nicolas Maduro said. The apparent uprising came after a former National Guard captain demanded the creation of a new government.
Venezuela’s military says it put down a rebellion at a key army base in Valencia on Sunday, less than two days after the government appeared to ensure its indefinite rule by forming a legislative body loyal to President Nicolas Maduro.
Socialist Party deputy Diosdado Cabello announced the uprising had been put down shortly after a video was released that showed a group of military men announcing the rebellion.
Several of the assailants were arrested, officials said, after reports of shots being fired near the base in the city’s Paramacay Fort, used by the National Bolivarian Armed Forces (FANB in Spanish).
“Our FANB successfully repelled a paramilitary criminal terrorist attack, the seven captured are giving information!” Rear Admiral Remigio Ceballos, head of the military’s strategic operational command, said on Twitter.
In a video released earlier on Sunday, a man who identified himself as Juan Carlos Caguaripano, a former National Guard captain, said: “We demand the immediate formation of a transition government.” He was flanked by about a dozen men in military uniforms.
“This is not a coup d’etat,” he said. “This is a civic and military action to re-establish constitutional order. But more than that, it is to save the country from total destruction.”
A witness near the military base, in the town of Naguanagua, reported hearing gunshots before dawn, but Cabello maintained that the situation had been brought under control. Officials said the rebels, whom they described as “terrorists,” were trying to steal weapons and that seven people were detained after the attack on the base.
Criticism of Maduro grows
So far the rest of the country appears to be remaining calm, if tense.
Critics at home and abroad have condemned the so-called constituent assembly that formed on Friday and is intended to replace the popularly elected National Assembly, which opposes Maduro’s increasingly authoritarian rule.
The constituent assembly quickly moved to dismiss the state prosecutor, Luisa Ortega, a former ally of Maduro’s who has recently become his staunchest critic.
Ortega refused to recognize the assembly’s move and vowed to resist the Maduro regime “with my last breath” against what she considers the government’s unconstitutional overreach.
The armed forces are seen as the key power broker in Venezuela, and opposition leaders have repeatedly called on the military to break ranks with Maduro.
But the military leadership continues to publicly profess loyalty to the president and his government. Critics say lucrative government contracts, corruption and contraband mean many military officials want Maduro to stay in power. They also fear persecution should the opposition take over.
The country has been in a years-long deepening economic crisis, which has fed the political tensions in the oil-rich state. Periodic demonstrations have grown into daily protests in recent months. Since April, more than 120 people have been killed in the daily clashes as rock-throwing protesters have been met by state security forces firing rubber bullets and water cannon.
bik/tj (AP, Reuters, AFP, dpa)