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Venezuela says troops thwarted attempt by Maduro opponents to seize fort

VENEZUELA-CRISIS-FORT-VIDEO
Soldiers are seen at Ft. Paramacay in Valencia, Venezuela, where authorities say troops put down an attack by an opposition group.
(Ronaldo Schemidt / AFP/Getty Images)

Venezuelan authorities said armed forces successfully put down an early morning attack Sunday by a group opposed to President Nicolas Maduro that tried to take over Ft. Paramacay in Valencia.

Two were killed and seven arrested in the clash, authorities said.

There were no signs that the revolt, which government officials described as a “terrorist attack,” had spread to other bases across the country. Several army units were deployed in Caracas, the capital, and in other cities as a security measure.

Some of those involved in the uprising were apparently able to take control of an arsenal at the fort before fleeing the scene, according to local media.

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Security forces were searching for an undisclosed number of people who fled the fort. Details of the conflict could not be independently determined.

The conflict comes a day after Maduro’s government convened a controversial assembly to rewrite the nation’s constitution. Critics claim Maduro acted illegally because the body did not receive public authorization and say that it is designed to marginalize the opposition-controlled National Assembly.

Venezuela has been shaken by four months of protests over food scarcities, violence and Maduro’s autocratic governing style. The death toll from clashes between protesters and authorities since late March stands at 131, and thousands have been injured or arrested.

The clash Sunday involved a group of some 20 people dressed in military uniforms led by an officer who identified himself as Capt. Juan Caguaripano. The group members issued a video over social media to announce they were in “legitimate rebellion.”

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“United now more than ever with the brave people of Venezuela, we repudiate the murderous tyranny of Nicolas Maduro,” Caguaripano said. “This is not a coup d’etat. This is a civic and military action to reestablish constitutional order.”

Maduro said on his weekly television broadcast that the group entered the base about 4 a.m. He said the uprising was led by a deserter.

Remigio Ceballos, strategic operational commander of the nation’s armed forces, said in a social media message that seven “terrorists” had been arrested after the attack.

Defense Minister Vladimir Padrino Lopez wrote on Twitter that the attackers were repulsed due to the “spirit and constitutional conscience” of the armed forces.

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Constitutional Assembly Vice President Diosdado Cabello said on Twitter that there was “absolute normalcy” at other government installations.

Opposition leader Henrique Capriles said at a news conference that the attack demonstrated the frustration Venezuelans feel with the new constitutional assembly and other autocratic measures taken by the Maduro government to neutralize the opposition.

“What is coming with the new constitution is only more hunger and more isolation for Venezuela,” said Capriles, governor of Miranda state.

In April, Capriles was disqualified by the government from running for future office for alleged mismanagement of state finances, a charge he denied. Capriles claimed it was a maneuver to eliminate him from next year’s presidential election.

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Also, opposition leader Leopoldo Lopez was returned to house arrest after having been seized from his residence last week and taken to a military prison. He had spent more than three years in prison following a conviction for incitement to violence, a charge he denied, before being granted house arrest July 8.

Special correspondents Mogollon and Kraul reported from Caracas and Bogota, Colombia, respectively.


UPDATES:

4:25 p.m.: This article was updated with information on comments from President Maduro.

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This article was originally published at 2:00 p.m.


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