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Venezuela military group arrested after call to disavow Maduro

A group of soldiers rose up against Venezuela’s President Nicolas Maduro at a command post near Caracas on Monday, but were quickly arrested after posting an appeal for public support in a video, the government said.

“We are the professional troop of the National Guard against the regime, which we completely repudiate. I need your help, take to the streets,” a man who identified himself as the group’s sergeant said in video images circulated on social media.

Defense Minister Vladimir Padrino issued a statement shortly afterwards saying the soldiers had been arrested.

“During the arrest, stolen weapons were recovered and (the mutineers) are providing useful information to intelligence services and the military justice system,” added Padrino, who said the rebels would “face the full force of the law.”

No information on the number of mutineers has been given.

The soldiers rose up during the early hours of Monday morning at a National Guard command post in Cotiza, north of Caracas, which was later surrounded by police and troops.

The armed forces said a “small group of attackers” stole a batch of weapons from a command post in Petare, to the east of Caracas, and kidnapped four soldiers before heading to Cotiza.

“They were neutralized, surrendered and captured in record time,” said Maduro’s right-hand man, Diosdado Cabello on Twitter.

“They are already confessing details and the first thing they said is that they were offered villas and castles but were left alone, they were tricked. We will win,” he added, without specifying who allegedly made the offer.

The armed forces fired tear gas at a group of neighbors that turned up outside the command post to offer support to the rebel soldiers, according to local press reports.

Parliament president Juan Guaido, who has embarked on a power struggle with Maduro since being elected to lead the National Assembly earlier this month, spoke out in support of the mutinous soldiers.

“What is happening in the National Guard in Cotiza is a demonstration of the general feeling that reigns within” the armed forces, Guaido said on Twitter.

“Our military knows that the chain of command has been broken by the usurpation of the presidential office.

“The National Assembly is committed to offering all the necessary guarantees to members of the armed forces that actively contribute to the restoration of the constitution.”

Guaido previously accused Maduro of being a usurper after the socialist leader was sworn in for a second term of office on January 10, and called for the armed forces to support the legislature in restoring democracy in the country.

Maduro won controversial snap elections in May that were boycotted by the opposition and branded fraudulent by the United States, European Union and a dozen Latin American countries.

The National Assembly has been rendered impotent by the Supreme Court, dominated by Maduro loyalists, which stripped it of all its powers after the opposition gained control of the legislature in 2016 elections.

Guaido previously called on the population and armed forces to help him overthrow Maduro so he can set up a transitional government ahead of new elections.

He has also called for a mass people’s protest on Wednesday to support his demands.

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