Mil­i­tary quashes at­tack at base: Venezuela of­fi­cial

The Guardian (Charlottetown) - - WORLD -

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.

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