Aug. 7 (UPI) — Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro said security forces are searching for 10 rebels who seized weapons after attacking a military base in the city of Valencia.
Government officials said 20 people — two of whom were killed, one injured and seven arrested — carried out the assault at the National Bolivarian Armed Forces’ Fort Paramacay in the Carabobo state.
Officials within Maduro’s regime said those arrested include a first lieutenant who deserted, while others were civilians wearing military uniforms. Maduro described those who launched the attack as “mercenaries” and “terrorists.”
“At dawn, a group of 20 mercenaries entered … Fort Paramacay,” Maduro said during a televised address on Sunday. “I cannot classify it in any other way, it is a terrorist attack against the Bolivarian National Armed Forces and the Armed Forces has reacted in a united way, with morality, with decisiveness.”
Maduro said the entire Venezuelan security apparatus has been mobilized to capture the rebels.
The leader of the group, who identified himself as Juan Caguaripano in a video, said his group was taking a stand against the “murderous tyranny” of Maduro’s regime.
“This is not a coup but a civic and military action to re-establish constitutional order,” Caguaripano said in the video.
The incident in Carabobo comes as Venezuela grapples with months of nearly daily protests. Though there have been some demonstrations in support of Maduro’s regime, most have been anti-government protests decrying the country’s economic collapse, what the opposition says is the deterioration of democracy and the violent repression of peaceful protesters at the hands of Venezuelan security forces.
Venezuela’s economic crisis, exacerbated by a fall in oil prices, has caused basic goods like food and medicine to be in short supply, unavailable or unaffordable.
About two dozen anti-government protesters gathered in Valencia for a short-lived demonstration that ended after security forces dispersed them with tear gas.
Venezuelan Defense Minister Vladimir Padrino Lopez said some of those arrested in the “military uprising” confessed to being civilians paid to participate.
The incident at the military base follows the establishment of Maduro’s controversial National Constituent Assembly, a body of lawmakers that has the power to rewrite the Constitution and effectively replaces the country’s parliament.