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21 Jan, 2019 14:11

Armed Venezuelan soldiers detained in Caracas for trying to stage ‘uprising’ against Maduro

Armed Venezuelan soldiers detained in Caracas for trying to stage ‘uprising’ against Maduro

Venezuela’s military has detained a group of the National Guard soldiers who stole weapons, and called for an uprising to be staged against President Nicolas Maduro.

Early on Monday morning, videos surfaced on social media showing a group of some two dozen men dressed in military uniforms and carrying assault rifles on the streets of the Venezuelan capital Caracas.

One of the men, who identified himself as a sergeant major of the Venezuelan National Guard, said the soldiers had risen up against Maduro to “defend the constitution.” The man also called on Venezuelans to support the rebels and take to the streets to fight for their rights.

Soon after that, photos published on social media showed police Special Forces units, the FAES, being deployed to the area where the rebels were seen. Some media reports also said there was a shooting outside the National Guard barracks in Caracas.

Later, the Venezuelan Armed Forces said the situation had been taken under control and a “small group of assailants” was detained. According to its statement, the rebels first hijacked two military vehicles and then stormed a military facility, where they kidnapped two officers, two soldiers, and stole “a large number” of weapons.

The rebellious servicemen were eventually captured in Cotiza, north of the Venezuelan capital. The group put up “stiff resistance” to the troops but eventually surrendered, the military statement said. It confirmed reports of a shootout but provided no details of any casualties.

Following the incident, all other military units “are operating as normal,” the statement said. Defense Minister Vladimir Padrino Lopez condemned the actions of the rebels, and said they would be punished “to the fullest extent of the law.”

The head of the Constituent National Assembly, Diosdado Cabello, also denounced the group as “traitors to the country that stole weapons to provoke violence and anxiety among the people.” Meanwhile, the rebels apparently received support from Juan Guaido, the leader of the opposition and president of the Venezuelan parliament.

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Guaido, who earlier declared that he was ready to seize power and take the role of interim president following a coup against Maduro, referred to the rebels in a series of tweets. He said the National Assembly “is committed to providing all the necessary guarantees to the members of the [Armed Forces], who actively contribute to the restitution of the constitution.”

He also called on other military units to support the rebels by saying that he wants the army to “stand as one on the side of the people, the constitution and against usurpation.”

Hit by hyperinflation, the devaluation of the national currency, and a shortage of basic necessities, Venezuela struggles to cope with a prolonged crisis exacerbated by the hardline stance taken by Washington against the government of Nicolas Maduro. The political situation in the Latin American state also remains tense as anti-government rallies continue to spread across the country.

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Venezuela currently has two competing legislatures. The pro-government Constitutional Assembly elected in August 2017 has stripped the opposition-dominated National Assembly of its powers. The US and many of Venezuela’s neighbors have not recognized that election as legitimate.

After winning the presidential election in May 2018, Maduro was sworn in for his second term in January in a development sharply criticized by the US, which openly took the side of the opposition by calling for a coup against the Venezuelan president.

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