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Latin America

Venezuela says rebellion at military base quashed

The government called it a "terrorist" attack after a small group of men dressed in fatigues released a video on Sunday declaring themselves in "legitimate rebellion."
6 Ago 2017 – 11:49 AM EDT
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CARACAS, Venezuela -- Venezuelan troops quashed a "terrorist" attack at a military base Sunday after a small group of men dressed in fatigues released a video declaring themselves in rebellion, a senior ruling party offical said.

Diosdado Cabello, vice president of the ruling socialist PSUV party, 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.

Some of the rebel group managed to get away after seizing an unknown quantity of weapons, Venezuela's armed forces said in a statement.

The announcement came after the group of men, some armed with assault rifles, announced they were launching "a legitimate rebellion" against the "murderous tyranny" of President Nicolás Maduro.

"This is not a coup d'etat," a man who identified himself as Capt. Juan Caguaripano said in the video. He described it as a "civic and military action," named Operation David, "to re-establish the constitutional order."

The government called the attackers "mercenary terrorists" financed by unspecified people in Miami and Colombia.

However, Venezuela's constitution specifically allows for rebellion under article 350 of the constitution which states: " The people of Venezuela ... shall disown any regime, legislation or authority that runs counters to democratic values, principles and guarantees, or that undermines human rights."

Article 333 also states that when the constitution has been violated "every citizen, whether or not vested with official authority, has a duty to assist in bringing it back into actual effect."

Former president Hugo Chávez famously had the constitution rewritten in 1999 to include these clauses thereby enshrining his own involvement in a 1992 coup with legitimacy.

Venezuelan opposition leaders claim the Maduro government has repeatedly breached the constitution, especially by the recent election of an all-powerful constituent assembly which was inaugurated on Friday. Critics fear Maduro will use the assembly to impose a totalitarian, one-party state.

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.

Caguaripano, the leader of the alleged plot, has a history of rebellion.

In 2014, while a captain in the national guard 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.

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 neighborhood in Valencia, is one of Venezuela's largest and houses some of the country's most important armaments including Russian-made tanks.

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.

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