Questions about the Venezuelan army’s support for President Nicolás Maduro are gaining urgency, after a video posted to social media showed a group of armed men in military uniform claiming to be staging a rebellion against a “murderous tyranny” Sunday.
El Pais reports some men attacked the Fuerte Paramacay military base in the northern city of Valencia and were able to make off with weapons, while forces loyal to Maduro used megaphones to urge the rebels to lay down arms.
But the counter punch was swift.
Jesús Suárez Chourio, Commander of Venezuela’s Army said in a video from the base, “we found a paramilitary group who took advantage of the current situation and assaulted us. But immediately, they were repelled. They were defeated.”
At least one person died and another was injured in the attack, says El Pais.
Seven people have been captured, according to Remigio Ceballos, a commanding chief of the armed forces.
Of the video calling for an uprising, NPR’s Philip Reeves reports, “the footage shows a man identifying himself as a captain demanding a transitional government and the restoration of constitutional order.”
The man says his name is Juan Caguaripano and is clear to point out that the group is not waging a coup.
The Associated Press reports Caguaripano 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 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.
“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.”
In a country that has been rocked by turmoil for months, NPR’s Reeves urged caution in weighing competing claims around the supposed uprising.
“There is a very intense propaganda war going on in Venezuela at this time,” reports Reeves.
Amid a collapsing economy and food shortages, anti-Maduro protests have been a near constant in Venezuela since April.
More than 100 people have died in clashes between security forces, and protesters and more than 500 people have been detained, reports the AP.
But with last week’s vote to create a constituent assembly, which critics labeled a sham governing body to consolidate Maduro’s power, the crisis has been escalating.
Two days after the vote, Venezuelan security agents arrested two main opposition leaders in midnight raids, making good on Maduro’s vow to crack down on dissent.
And on Saturday, when the newly-elected assembly held its first session, it voted to oust a chief prosecutor and major Maduro critic.
Javier Giribet-Vargas contributed to this report.