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Venezuela puts down mutiny by national guard unit

  • Author: Fabiola Sanchez, Associated Press
  • Updated: January 21
  • Published January 21

Anti-government protesters face off with security forces as they show support for an apparent mutiny by a national guard unit in the Cotiza neighborhood of Caracas, Venezuela, Monday, Jan. 21, 2019. (AP Photo/Ariana Cubillos)

CARACAS, Venezuela — Venezuela’s government said Monday it put down a mutiny by a National Guard unit in a poor neighborhood a few miles (kilometers) from Venezuela’s presidential palace.

The uprising triggered protests in the same neighborhood, which were dispersed with tear gas as residents set fire to a street barricade of trash and chanted demands that President Nicolas Maduro leave power.

The armed forces in a statement said that it had captured all those involved in what it described as "treasonous" acts motivated by "obscure interests tied to the far right."

It said at around 2:50 a.m. (06:50 GMT), a small group of guardsmen took captive a captain in charge of a police station in western Caracas and then moved across the capital in two military trucks to the poor neighborhood of Petare, where they stole a cache of weapons from another outpost.

They met resistance and were caught hours later at a national guard outpost 3 kilometers (2 miles) from the Miraflores presidential palace.

The armed forces said all the weapons had been recovered and the mutinous troops captured.

A few hours earlier, a group of heavily armed national guardsmen published a series of videos on social media saying they won't recognize President Nicolas Maduro's government, which has come under increasing domestic and international pressure over a newly launched second term that the opposition-controlled congress and many nations consider illegitimate.

Anti-government protesters clash with security forces as they show support for an apparent mutiny by a national guard unit in the Cotiza neighborhood of Caracas, Venezuela, Monday, Jan. 21, 2019. The uprising triggered protests which were dispersed with tear gas as residents set fire to a street barricade of trash and chanted demands that President Nicolas Maduro leave power. (AP Photo/Ariana Cubillos)
Residents protest in support of a mutiny by a national guard unit and against Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro in the Cotiza neighborhood of Caracas, Venezuela, Monday, Jan. 21, 2019. Security forces have fired tear gas against protesters in a poor neighborhood near the presidential palace after an apparent uprising by a national guard unit. (AP Photo/Ariana Cubilos)
A roadblock set up by anti-government protesters burns during clashes with security forces after an apparent mutiny by a national guard unit in the Cotiza neighborhood of Caracas, Venezuela, Monday, Jan. 21, 2019. (AP Photo/Fernando Llano)
An anti-government protester affected by tear gas, fired by security forces, holds a Venezuelan flag during a show of support for an apparent mutiny by a national guard unit in the Cotiza neighborhood of Caracas, Venezuela, Monday, Jan. 21, 2019. (AP Photo/Ariana Cubillos)
National Police work to disperse anti-government protesters shortly after a mutiny by a national guard unit in the Cotiza neighborhood of Caracas, Venezuela, Monday, Jan. 21, 2019. Security forces have fired tear gas against protesters in a poor neighborhood near the presidential palace after an apparent uprising by a national guard unit. (AP Photo/Fernando Llano)
Anti-government protesters run during clashes with security forces as they show support for an apparent mutiny by a national guard unit in the Cotiza neighborhood of Caracas, Venezuela, Monday, Jan. 21, 2019. (AP Photo/Ariana Cubillos)
Anti-government protesters show support for an apparent mutiny by a national guard unit in the Cotiza neighborhood of Caracas, Venezuela, Monday, Jan. 21, 2019. (AP Photo/Ariana Cubillos)

In one of the videos, a man identifying himself as 3rd Sgt. Alexander Bandres Figueroa, addressing the “people of Venezuela,” urges his compatriots to take to the streets to show support for their rebellion.

"You asked to take to the streets to defend the constitution, well here we are," he said in a video shot at night in which several heavily armed men and a national guard truck can be seen in the background.

"You wanted us to light the fuse, so we did. We need your support," he added.

At daybreak in the adjacent neighborhood of Cotiza, a group of shirtless young men, some with their faces covered, built a barricade across the street with a burning car, heavy sewer grates and a large chunk of concrete.

An angry group of women shouted that they have lived for too long without running water.

"Freedom! Freedom!" they chanted. "Maduro has to go!"

"We must defend our homeland," Maria Fernanda Rodriguez, a 36-year-old manicurist, told The Associated Press, her eyes welling from the tear gas.

Juan Guaido, president of the congress, said the incident is a sign of growing discontent within the armed forces.

"Our military knows that the command chain is broken by the usurpation of the presidency," Guaido said in a message on Twitter in which he reiterated a promise to support all members of the armed forces working to restore Venezuela's democratic order.

Pressure has been mounting on Maduro to cede power after he began as second, six-year term this month. The U.S. and dozens of other foreign governments consider it illegitimate, in part because he banned several leading opponents from running against him.

While discontent among Venezuelans is rising amid widespread food shortages and hyperinflation, Maduro is believed to have the loyalty of his top military command. In the past troops have easily put down small uprisings.

Defense Minister Vladimir Padrino Lopez said on Twitter that those responsible for the incident would be punished with the full force of the law.

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