Raid on Venezuelan Base Got Help From Active Officers — Sense of defeat, desperation grows — It could be putting Venezuela in a situation of pre-civil war

Government says it is still looking for some rebels who conducted the attack in Valencia

Anti-government activists demonstrated in Venezuela on Sunday after a raid by self-describe rebels on a army base in Valencia.
Anti-government activists demonstrated in Venezuela on Sunday after a raid by self-describe rebels on a army base in Valencia. PHOTO:RONALDO SCHEMIDT/AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE/GETTY IMAGES

CARACAS, Venezuela—Venezuela’s defense minister said Monday that authorities were still looking for a small group of rebels—including active military officers—who raided an army base and stole weapons early Sunday.

The dawn raid, which led to three deaths, was an embarrassment to the government by underscoring how easily a group of civilians and former soldiers raided the ammunition depot of the Paramacay artillery base, home to an armored brigade.

The government said the attackers made off with close to 100 AK-103 assault rifles and a handful of grenade launchers. The incident in Valencia, the country’s third-largest city, left two attackers dead, according to the government.

“I call to reject these vile acts of treason against the fatherland,” Defense Minister Gen. Vladimir Padrino said in a televised speech Monday.

The attack further ratcheted tensions in Venezuela following four months of antigovernment unrest and raised fears that government opponents could begin to arm themselves for conflict.

One protester was shot dead in Valencia during a demonstration in support of the attack. Security forces also dispersed protesters throughout the country into Monday morning.

The assailants were aided by Paramacay’s ammunitions keeper, Lt. Yefferson Garcia, said Gen. Padrino.

The brazenness of the attack and the complicity of active officers raises questions about the military’s willingness and ability to defend an increasingly unpopular government of President Nicolás Maduro, said Nicholas Watson, London-based political risk analyst at Teneo Intelligence.

“The fact that security was breached in this way, and weapons apparently seized, will be a major concern for the regime,” he said. “This is highly unlikely to be the last such uprising.”

The attack appears to have been focused on acquiring arms, rather than triggering a military uprising, said Luis Esculpi, a Venezuelan military analyst and former head of the congressional defense committee. The raid is the first significant sign of antigovernment groups seeking to arms themselves against Mr. Maduro, he said.

“This is very worrying, because it could be putting Venezuela in a situation of pre-civil war,” he said.

The raiding party was led by a National Guard Capt. Juan Caguaripano, who deserted in 2014 in protest at the government’s increasingly authoritarian tilt. He has since given a few interviews with media from hiding. He remained at large Monday.

Venezuela’s opposition alliance has relied on peaceful demonstrations to pressure Mr. Maduro to call general elections, which polls show he would lose. Mr. Maduro has responded with repression and moved ahead with installing an all-powerful assembly, tasked with consolidating his power.

The repression has led to an increasingly violent response at protests from radical government opponents, who say peaceful demonstrations have failed to produce political change.

“Until now we have seen the civil society marching [against Mr. Maduro] with whistles and flags,” said Rocio San Miguel, security expert at the policy group Citizens Control, in Caracas. “But a sense of defeat, desperation could produce in the medium-term groups that are prepared to take up arms to achieve their goals.”

A retired Venezuelan general, Heberto Garcia Plaza, said he was told by active duty officers that Capt. Caguaripano had also taken 188 40 mm grenades and seven shoulder-held grenade launchers. He said he feared that armed resistance groups would soon emerge.

“When the right of political expression is stolen from you, the only thing that is left is insurgency,” he said.

Write to Anatoly Kurmanaev at Anatoly.kurmanaev@wsj.com

Appeared in the August 8, 2017, print edition as ‘Venezuela Hunts for Rebels in Raid.’

https://www.wsj.com/articles/raid-on-venezuelan-base-got-help-from-active-officers-1502143201

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One Response to “Raid on Venezuelan Base Got Help From Active Officers — Sense of defeat, desperation grows — It could be putting Venezuela in a situation of pre-civil war”

  1. daveyone1 Says:

    Reblogged this on World Peace Forum.

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