World News

Venezuelan authorities hunt army base attackers

Posted August 7

A manhunt is underway in Venezuela Monday after two people were killed in an anti-government paramilitary attack at a military barracks in the northwestern city of Valencia.

In a tweet, the press office of President Nicol-s Maduro said there were 20 attackers in all.

Two were shot dead, one was injured and is recovering in a hospital and seven people were arrested, according to Venezuelan Minister of Communications Ernesto Villegas, who tweeted a picture of those detained in the attack. Ten others fled when the gunfight began, and are now being hunted down.

On his weekly TV show, "Sundays with Maduro," the President made reference to the incident, saying "a week ago, we won with votes and today we had to beat terrorism with bullets."

"They attack with terrorism and hate. We attack with our work, our love. They destruct, we construct," Maduro said.

He said one of the attackers who was caught was an army deserter who was providing information to the authorities.

Socialist Maduro has come under increasing international criticism because of what is seen as his attempt to tighten his grip on power in the oil-rich Latin American nation with major constitutional changes, approved by a plebiscite.

Operation David

A man who identified himself as an army officer announced the revolt on social media, an action he called a "legitimate rebellion."

"We are united now, more than ever, with the brave people of Venezuela who do not recognize the legitimacy of Nicol-s Maduro's murderous tyranny," according to a man who said he was Capt. Juan Caguaripano.

Social media videos showed a group of men in military uniforms launching a resistance movement they called "Operation David."

The man in the video who identified himself as Caguaripano was with a dozen others, people he identified as soldiers from the 41st Brigade of Fort Paramacay in the city of Valencia. "I am joined here by officers and troops from this glorious unit who represent the real Venezuelan army, that has fought to forge our liberty," the man said in a video on social media.

The move, according to the man, was not a "coup."

"It is a civic and military action meant to re-establish the constitutional order and, more importantly, to save the country from its total destruction and to keep our young people and families from being murdered," he said.

But Padrino said Caguaripano was a "first lieutenant who had deserted his post," and those involved in the attack had been "repelled immediately."

Privately-owned online news channel Vivo Play broadcast video from outside the Fort Paramacay showing tanks moving inside the base and helicopters surrounding it. There were news images in Valencia of a barricade set by anti-government activists in flames.

Venezuelan opposition leader Leopoldo Lopez, whose recent imprisonment was criticized by the international community, was released to house arrest late Saturday.

National Assembly

The National Constituent Assembly, the body created by Maduro which critics say concentrates his personal power, held its first session Saturday. In its first order of business, the assembly unanimously fired Attorney General Luisa Ortega Diaz.

They barred her from ever seeking public office again in Venezuela, prohibited her from leaving the country and froze her assets.

Her removal from office happened after she said she would open an investigation into fraud allegations surrounding last Sunday's election.

But Ortega, speaking Sunday at Caracas' Universidad Cat-lica Andr-s Bello, brushed off the move. "I will continue being the attorney general of this country," she told reporters.

Ortega called the election illegal and scolded the Maduro government.

"I thought they had principles, ethics and values," she said.

Meanwhile, South America's trade bloc, Mercosur, suspended Venezuela indefinitely from the group until there was a "re-establishment of democratic order." The Organization of American States applauded the decision.

Mercosur's decision is mostly symbolic and will not impact trade or the free movement of Venezuelans among Mercosur countries.

The assembly has proposed a "restructuring" of the attorney general's office and nominated Tarek William Saab, a Maduro ally and former ombudsman, to be the interim attorney general. He was sworn in late Saturday afternoon to rousing applause from the Constituent Assembly.

Saab is one of 13 Maduro loyalists targeted with sanctions in July by the US Treasury Department.

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