Venezuela military base attack: One dead and one injured as video shows men in uniform claiming start of coup

The ruling party says it has suppressed a ‘terrorist attack’

Samuel Osborne
Sunday 06 August 2017 13:23 BST
Video shows Venezuelan men in uniform claiming start of coup

Venezuelan authorities said they have suppressed a military rebellion near the central city of Valencia, shortly after a small group of men dressed in fatigues released a video declaring themselves in rebellion.

The ruling Socialist Party’s deputy, Diosdado Cabello, said there had been a “terrorist attack” at a military base.

One person has died and one person has been badly injured.

His announcement came after a video emerged showing a group of men in military uniform, who said they were launching an uprising against controversial President Nicolas Maduro to restore democracy.

One witness in the area of the military base in the town of Naguanagua reported hearing gunshots before dawn, but Mr Cabello said the situation had been brought under control.

Troops acted quickly to control the situation at the Paramacay base in the central city of Venezuela, he said on Twitter.

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.

Mr Cabello, a former military man and Vice President under the late President Hugo Chavez, called the attackers “mercenary terrorists”.

Socialist party loyalists regularly use the term “terrorist” to describe opposition leaders and protesters.

Opposition protesters clash with security forces in Venezuela

The announcement came after a small group of men, some armed with assault rifles, released a video declaring themselves in rebellion in Carabobo state, where Valencia is located.

In the video, 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.”

He said any unit refusing to go along with its call for rebellion would be declared a military target.

Anti-government activists set up barricades while protesting the elections (AFP)

Local reporters published videos appearing to show dozens of Venezuelans near the base in Valencia, taking to the streets to protest the government before being pushed back with tear gas.

Other 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.

Government allies were quick to denounce the attack as a right-wing plot aimed at bringing down the “Bolivarian revolution”, started nearly 20 years ago by the late Hugo Chavez and carried on by his protege Mr Maduro.

“These attacks, planned by delirious minds in Miami, only strengthen the morale of our armed forces and the Bolivarian people,” tweeted Socialist Party official Elias Jaua.

The political crisis has left more than 100 dead, nearly 2,000 wounded and over 500 detained (Getty)

Mr 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 Mr 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.

Maduro celebrates election results after vote on his proposed Constituent Assembly (EPA)

The South American nation has for months been in the throes of a political crisis with protests that have left more than 100 dead, nearly 2,000 wounded and over 500 detained.

Last week, two opposition leaders were taken from their homes in the middle of the night by intelligence agents and hauled to prison.

It came days after the country’s president formed a legislative superbody, internationally condemned as a power grab.

On Saturday, Mr Maduro’s new “constituent assembly” removed the chief prosecutor from her post and ordered her to stand trial, confirming opposition fears that it would use its powers to root out critics of the government.

Additional reporting by agencies

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