Venezuela says rebel officers behind army base attack captured

National Constituent Assembly member Diosdado Cabello (front C) arrives for a session of the assembly, next to Venezuela’s Defense Minister Vladimir Padrino (front L) and Major General Jesus Suarez Chourio (front R), Commander General of the Bolivarian Army, at Palacio Federal Legislativo in Caracas, Venezuela August 10, 2017. REUTERS/Carlos Garcia Rawlins Top News

Venezuela’s military chief has said two renegade officers behind an attack on an army base to raid its armory have been captured. “The leaders and masterminds of the paramilitary and terrorist assault” last weekend against the base in the northwestern city of Valencia were arrested, said the defense minister and armed forces commander, General Vladimir Padrino. The suspects were a former captain, Juan Carlos Caguaripano Scott, 38, and a lieutenant at the base who was in charge of the weapons, Jefferson Garcia.

Venezuelan officials said Caguaripano, who was discharged from the army in 2O14, had commanded around 20 uniformed men in the attack. Two of the men were killed and eight were captured, officials said previously. Caguaripano and Jefferson Garcia escaped with the rest of their team and a stolen arsenal. “This capture is a hard blow against fascist terrorism put into play by the Venezuelan right over the past few months,” the defense minister said on Twitter, using a term referring to the opposition.

“Whoever betrays the nation, whoever takes up arms against the FANB will receive exemplary punishment,” he said, referring to Venezuela’s armed forces. Padrino later told state television the two men were arrested after a chase in eastern Caracas, when they were spotted at a road checkpoint. The rest of their group was being hunted, he added.

Just before the base attack, Caguaripano appeared in a video posted online with more than a dozen armed, uniformed men saying he was carrying out a “legitimate rebellion” against the “murderous tyranny” of President Nicolas Maduro. The attack dramatically ratcheted up tensions in Venezuela’s long-running crisis, raising the prospect it could spill into some form of armed conflict. Violent demonstrations vigorously countered by security forces have killed nearly 130 people since the beginning of April.

Maduro has come under fire by the opposition and my the major countries in the Americas for seeing over the establishment of a new assembly filled with loyalists given powers to override the legislature, controlled by the opposition since 2015. US President Donald Trump, meanwhile, said he did not rule out “a possible military option if necessary” against Venezuela. Padrino dismissed that threat as “an act of craziness.”

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