An unknown number of armed assailants raided a military facility in Southern Venezuela early Sunday morning, killing one soldier and making off with 100 rifles before being led through the surrounding jungle by indigenous Pemon tribe members.
According to local media (El Pitazo) the attack was led by a deserting soldier. The attack took place in the Gran Sabana National Park in the southern area of the country in the state of Bolivar. It is a popular tourist destination and home to the tallest waterfall (Angel Falls), in the world, which is two and a half times the height of the Empire State Building.
Defense Minister Vladimir Padrino called the incident a terrorist attack. “Early today, a military unit was attacked in the south of the country by extremist opposition factions, with a large number of weapons stolen,” he posted on Twitter. “It was in this terrorist attack that an army officer was killed,” he added.
Padrino claimed that all of the weapons had been recovered and that the government had arrested six suspects. Information Minister Jorge Rodriguez said that the raiders had been trained at “paramilitary camps in Colombia” and had received assistance from Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro.
Venezuelan Foreign Minister Jorge Arreaza described the attackers as “mercenaries” based out of Peru and called the attack part of a regional strategy to destabilize the country. Peru released a statement through the Foreign Ministry denying any involvement and stating that they are in favor of a “peaceful solution” to the crisis in Venezuela.
Neither Brazilian nor Colombian officials have commented on the allegations of the Venezuelan regime. However, both the Brazilian and Colombian governments as well as the Peruvian have recognized the leader of the opposition, Juan Guiado, as the president of Venezuela.
The opposition to President Maduro, led by Guaido, has steadily lost its momentum from the massive protests of this past spring and summer. Earlier this year, Guaido tried to bring aid from the United States and other countries through the southern border; but the government’s military forces violently confronted the people there.
The country is in economic free fall under Maduro. Guaido and many others have been accusing him of election stealing after the farcical 2018 presidential race. Guaido tried to get the military to side with the opposition to force Maduro out. But Maduro, like Chavez before him, has bought the loyalty of the senior officers of the military through a bloated general officer structure as well as with property and cash.
The state of Bolivar has been overrun with lawlessness, including organized crime and illegal gold mining. In an example of art imitating life, the recent Netwix fictional series “Jack Ryan” portrayed an illegal operation that was supposed to take place in the southern Bolivar region. The region is also home to many indigenous tribes, including the Pemon, who have had an adversarial relationship with the government.