Military quashes attack at base: Venezuela official
Ruling party chief Diosdado Cabello said Venezuelan troops quashed a “terrorist’’ attack at a military base Sunday, shortly after a small group of men dressed in fatigues released a video declaring themselves in rebellion.
Cabello reported on Twitter that troops quickly contained the early morning assault at the Paramacay base in the central city of Valencia. Military officials said seven people were detained.
The announcement came after the group of men, some armed with assault rifles, announced they were disavowing the government of embattled President Nicolas Maduro and said any unit refusing to go along with their call for rebellion would be declared a military target.
“This is not a coup d’etat,’’ a man who identified himself as Capt. Juan Caguaripano said in the video. “This is a civic and military action to re-establish the constitutional order.’’
Cabello, a former military man and vice-president under the late President Hugo Chavez, called the attackers “mercenary terrorists.’’ Socialist party loyalists also regularly use the term “terrorist’’ to describe opposition leaders and protesters.
The South American nation has for months been in the throes of a political crisis with protests that have left more than 120 dead, nearly 2,000 wounded and over 500 detained. The political standoff heightened this week with the installation of an all-powerful constitutional assembly that opposition members fear Maduro will use to tighten his grip on power, install a oneparty state and remove foes from office.
Caguaripano, the leader of the alleged plot, has a history of rebellion.
In 2014, while a captain in the national guard and amid a previous wave of anti-government unrest, he released a 12-minute video denouncing Maduro. He later reportedly sought exile after a military tribunal ordered his arrest, appearing in an interview on CNN en Espanol to draw attention to dissatisfaction within the ranks over Venezuela’s demise.
He returned to Venezuela to lead Sunday’s uprising, said Giomar Flores, a mutinous naval officer who said he is a spokesman for the group from Bogota, Colombia.
Videos circulating on social media showed a police convoy speeding down a road amid the sound of apparent gunfire.
The Paramacay base, surrounded by a residential neighbourhood in Valencia, is one of Venezuela’s largest and houses some of the country’s most important armaments including Russian-made tanks.
Cabello is the first vicepresident of the ruling socialist party and a member of the constitutional assembly. He has been a vocal proponent of using the legislative superbody to strip lawmakers in the opposition-controlled National Assembly of the immunity from prosecution that comes with office.
While in the military he took part in a failed 1992 coup led by Chavez, and he has held various high-ranking positions in the government. U.S. officials have accused him of involvement in drug trafficking, a charge he denies.
On Twitter Sunday, Florida Sen. Marco Rubio said the fact that Cabello had announced the news of the attack “shows who’s in charge of security forces’’ in Venezuela.
Maduro is widely considered to still have the backing of the military, though it is difficult to know whether any discord may be brewing among the rank and file.
A man argues with a lineup of Venezuelan Bolivarian National Guards officers outside of Military base Paramacay in Valencia, Venezuela, Sunday.