Monday 15 July 2019

'Now or never': soldiers stage uprising against Venezuelan government

Unrest: A demonstrator throws a Molotov cocktail during clashes with police and troops in Cotiza, in northern Caracas, yesterday. Photo: Getty
Unrest: A demonstrator throws a Molotov cocktail during clashes with police and troops in Cotiza, in northern Caracas, yesterday. Photo: Getty

Cody Weddle

A group of Venezuelan soldiers announced an uprising yesterday against the government of Nicolas Maduro.

Security forces moved in to the Cotiza neighbourhood of Caracas after two dozen men in the uniform of the Guardia Nacional put out the call in the early hours, saying it was "now or never" to rebel against Mr Maduro.

"You asked for us to come out into the streets, to defend the constitution - here we are," a leader said in videos which circulated on social media. "It is today."

Government forces cordoned off Cotiza and later announced the capture of all rebels in a "counter-attack". But protesters burnt piles of trash, set up barricades and chanted "freedom".

Videos from the scene showed young masked men throwing stones at National Guard troops, who responded with tear gas and rubber bullets.

"The armed forces categorically reject this type of action, which is most certainly motivated by the dark interests of the extreme right," the government said in a statement.

Defence Minister Vladimir Padrino warned of the harshest punishments for those who bucked the chain of command. As well as the arrest of the "criminals", a cache of stolen weapons had been recovered, he said.

The uprising came ahead of anti-government protests planned for tomorrow that opposition figures have posited as "the detonator" for political change.

"I think Maduro must be very, very worried, because these are the poor communities coming out against him," opposition figure Leocenis Garcia said. "What's happening in Venezuela is the breaking of a military dictatorship from the bottom up."

The country is mired in a constitutional crisis in which the opposition-controlled parliament refuses to recognise Mr Maduro as the legitimate president. The body has proposed a bill that would give amnesty to military and political figures that disavow the Socialist leader.

But the pro-Maduro supreme court has considered the National Assembly to be in contempt since 2016 and its bills are immediately voided.

Mr Maduro, the hand-picked successor of Hugo Chavez, was re-elected last May in a vote boycotted and condemned by his opposition as a sham. (© Daily Telegraph, London)

Telegraph.co.uk

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