By: Patricia Mazzei, Associated Press
Venezuelan authorities quelled an apparent military rebellion early Sunday, a ruling socialist party leader said, the day after a new all-powerful legislative body condemned by the international community began targeting opposition opponents.
Socialist deputy Diosdado Cabello called the incident a “terrorist attack” at a military base in Valencia, a city west of the capital, Caracas. He wrote on Twitter that the situation had been brought under control and that several people were arrested.
His announcement came after the release of a video showing about a dozen men dressed in military fatigues and holding assault rifles declared themselves in rebellion and urged like-minded security forces rise up against President Nicolas Maduro.
Witnesses posted videos including what sounded like gunshots ringing in the dark at the Paramacay military base. After daybreak, neighbors gathered at the base entrance, cheering and singing the national anthem. At one point, they were dispersed with tear gas.
More tear gas was used against a spontaneous protest in a Valencia plaza. Helicopters belonging to security forces flew low over the base throughout the morning.
The military denounced a “paramilitary attack” and said seven men who had been detained were “giving up information.”
In the widely circulated video, a man identifying himself as Juan Carlos Caguaripano, a former National Guard captain, demanded “the immediate formation of a transition government.”
“This is not a coup d’etat,” he said. “This is a civic and military action to restore constitutional order. But more than that, it is to save the country from total destruction.”
Caguaripano was discharged three years ago, accused of conspiring against the government. He had been in hiding since. It was unclear if he was on the Paramacay base — and if so, how he might have gained entry. The rebellion was said to take place among troops from the 41st Army Tank Brigade.
A video later showed Bolivarian Army Commander Jesus Suarez Chourio — surrounded by troops he said were from the 41st Brigade on the base — declaring victory over the “mercenary paramilitary terrorist attack.”
“They assaulted us, but we suppressed them,” said Suarez Chourio, who is under U.S. sanctions for violently repressing political dissent.
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U.S. Sen. Marco Rubio, R-Fla., who has been pushing for sanctions against Maduro’s government, said on Twitter that Cabello’s acting as the government’s principal spokesman on the incident “shows who’s in charge of security forces in Venezuela.” He called Cabello, who has long been the subject of allegations that he’s involved in drug trafficking, a “narco leader.”
Cabello responded that Rubio was the first “character” to “defend the terrorist attack.”
“Now we know where it all comes from,” he said, later calling the senator “Narco Rubio.”
“Diosdado ‘Pablo Escobar’ Cabello is unusually nervous and frantic this morning,” Rubio retorted.
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Cabello is among several socialist leaders threatened with being sanctioned by the U.S. in coming days.
On Saturday, a new constituent assembly elected under suspected fraud dismissed Luisa Ortega, the attorney general investigating the government, from her post and ordered her to stand trial. In response, the president of the opposition-held parliament urged the military to step in to restore the democratic order.
Late Saturday night, the government returned jailed opposition leader Leopoldo Lopez to house arrest.
Edited for mb3-org.com