Several Venezuelan National Guard soldiers have been arrested, accused by authorities near Caracas of attempting to mutiny against Nicolas Maduro, the current president of the country. According to one report from Agence France Presse (AFP), the rebelling soldiers posted a video message to social media in an attempt to spur support for their cause. Shortly after the video was released, Venezuelan law enforcement personnel arrested the mutineers.
“We are the professional troop of the National Guard against the regime, which we completely repudiate,” said the group’s leader, who the Guardian identified as 3Sgt Alexander Bandres Figueroa. “I need your help. Take to the streets.”
“This fight is for you, for Venezuela,” Figueroa said in a second video.
The attempted coup began early on Monday, January 21, according to reports, when the group of rebelling soldiers stormed a Venezuelan National Guard operations center outside the capital in the city of Petare. Once inside, the group allegedly stole several weapons before taking four loyalist soldiers hostage. The group then drove to another National Guard center in Cotiza, where they began calling for a general uprising via social media.
After the group stormed the base in Cotiza, a standoff began when local police and military units arrived and surrounded the complex. Several civilians who live near the station took to the streets in support of the mutineers. Chants of “freedom” were heard coming from the spectators. Authorities used tear gas to disperse the crowd before storming the complex and arresting the rebel soldiers.
“During the arrest, stolen weapons were recovered and (the mutineers) are providing useful information to intelligence services and the military justice system,” said Vladimir Padrino, Venezuela’s defense minister, in a statement. According to AFP, Padrino also claimed that the suspects would “face the full force of the law.”
Several of Maduro’s detractors expressed support for the rebelling soldiers. Venezuela’s former chief prosecutor, Luisa Ortega Díaz, took to Twitter to express her support for the coup. “The bravery of these national guard boys shows us that, yes, there is dignity and willpower in the barracks to get us out of tyranny. We must support military rebellion.” Juan Guaido, the current president of Venezuela’s parliament, also tweeted messages of support for the mutineers.
“What is happening in the National Guard in Cotiza is a demonstration of the general feeling that reigns within [the military],” wrote Guaido on Twitter. “Our military knows that the chain of command has been broken by the usurpation of the presidential office.”