Venezuelan authorities crush military rebellion: ruling official

CARACAS (Reuters) – Venezuelan authorities have suppressed a military rebellion near the central city of Valencia, a ruling official said on Sunday, days after President Nicolas Maduro formed a legislative superbody internationally condemned as a power grab.

Socialist Party deputy Diosdado Cabello made the announcement shortly after the release of a video showing a group of men in military uniform announcing a rebellion and calling for a broad uprising against President Nicolas Maduro.

One witness in the area of a military base in the town of Naguanagua reported hearing gunshots before dawn, but Cabello said 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.

The Defense Ministry did not immediately respond to a request for comment. But 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 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.

On Friday, government allies inaugurated a new legislative superbody that the Venezuelan opposition and leaders around the world denounced as a power grab by Maduro.

In Sunday’s 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.”

On Saturday, 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.

The prosecutor, Luisa Ortega, had become Maduro’s main challenger from within the ruling socialist movement since the start of sustained opposition street protests in April. Since then more than 120 people have been killed in unrest as rock-throwing protesters were met by state security forces firing rubber bullets and water cannon.

Writing by Hugh Bronstein; Reporting by Alexandra Ulmer, Girish Gupta, Corina Pons, Deisy Buitrago and Hugh Bronstein; Editing by Louise Ireland and Lisa Shumaker

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