Venezuela 'foils national guard rebellion' against Maduro

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image source, EPA
image captionAnti-government protests erupted in the neighbourhood where the alleged rebellion took place

Twenty-seven members of Venezuela's National Guard have been arrested after they allegedly revolted against the government of President Nicolás Maduro, the defence ministry said.

Videos posted on social media showed the officers calling for the removal from office of President Maduro.

The men reportedly seized weapons from a National Guard command post in the Cotiza area of the capital, Caracas.

Footage also shows residents and security forces clashing in the area.

image source, AFP
image captionThe National Guard fired tear gas at residents in the Cotiza neighbourhood

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The ministry of defence said a "small group" of National Guard members had stolen weapons from a security post in the Petare neighbourhood of Caracas and taken four officers hostage before making their way to Cotiza in the early hours of Monday.

A video sent to opposition Twitter account @soldadoDfranela shows a man in uniform saying he is acting "on behalf of the Venezuelan people" and encouraging Venezuelans to take to the streets in protest at the government.

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According to the defence ministry statement, they encountered "strong resistance" from officers loyal to the government in the National Guard command post in Cotiza.

It is not clear whether they were overpowered or handed themselves in to the authorities. The statement goes on to say that the weapons they seized have been retrieved and that the men are being questioned.

It says the officers were driven by "the dark interests of the extreme right" without giving further details. The Venezuelan government routinely blames shadowy right-wing forces for any dissent in the country.

Footage shared on opposition websites shows residents of the neighbourhood taking to the streets in protest at the government in the wake of the overnight incident.

image source, AFP
image captionCars were set alight in the aftermath of the incident at the National Guard command post

The residents complain about a lack of water and shout "we want Nicolás to go" as the security forces try to disperse them with tear gas. Some erect barricades and set them alight.

Venezuelans have been suffering from power and water cuts as well as severe shortages of food and medicines for years. According to United Nations figures, three million have left the country in recent years.

A wave of mass anti-government protests swept through the country in April and May 2017 but after the arrest of hundreds of demonstrators and a number of deadly clashes, the protests dwindled away with many saying they were too afraid to take to the streets.

But in the past weeks, the new leader of the opposition-controlled National Assembly, Juan Guaidó, has called on those critical of the government to resume their protests once again and has called for anti-government marches to be held on Wednesday.

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