CARACAS -- An early-morning attack against one of Venezuela’s main garrisons ended Sunday with one of the suspected attackers killed, seven more arrested and others escaping with stolen military weapons, as unrest intensifies in Venezuela after four months of continuous anti-government protests.
“Part of the group managed to steal some weapons and are under intense search by the state’s security organisms,” a post by the Ministry of Defense read, labeling the attack “a terrorist attack of the paramilitary kind,” two epithets the government normally uses to describe the opposition.
The government published a picture of seven men, some visibly bruised around the face, but no list of names. Juan Caguaripano later said via twitter that none of his rebels were killed or captured.
Juan Caguaripano, a former National Guard captain, claimed responsibility for the attack on “Fuerte Paramacay” in an Instagram video, saying it was an attempt to unseat President Nicolas Maduro. The Maduro government later identified a former official as the ringleader in Sunday’s attack, but didn’t identify him by name and Caguaripano was not among the attackers killed or captured.
Neighbors of the fort tried to join forces with attackers inside the base but National Guard dispersed them with tear gas and buckshot in a standoff that last from 5 a.m. to noon. During the siege to recover the fort, four helicopters hovered as demonstrators expressed support for the attackers, negotiators tried to get the armed men inside the base to surrender and, at least in one instance, reporters were shot at with live ammunition to disrupt coverage of the crisis.
Paramacay is home to the oil-rich country’s main armored division, the 41st armored, which has more than one hundred state-of-the-art Russian T-72 tanks equipped with reactive armor.
In other parts of Venezuela, news of the attack triggered street demonstrations, with people banging on pots and honking their horns in apparent solidarity with the attackers.
“The captured subjects confessed to having been hired in the states of Zulia, Lara and Yaracuy by activists of the Venezuelan extreme right (the opposition) in connection with foreign governments,” the Maduro Regime claimed.
Llama terroristas a sus propios Oficiales y soldados. No dice que le vaciaron el parque de armas y que Caguaripano se escapó en sus narices. https://t.co/M2RvV8SLC5