Venezuela forces clash with protesters after reported mutiny
Security forces have fired tear gas against protesters in a poor neighborhood just 2 miles (3 kilometers) from Venezuela‘s presidential palace after an apparent uprising by a national guard unit.
The disturbance early Monday started hours after a group of men dressed in military fatigues and carrying assault weapons published a series of videos on social media saying they won’t recognize President Nicolas Maduro’s government.
In one of the videos, a man identifying himself as 3rd Sgt. Figueroa, addressing the “people of Venezuela,” urges his compatriots to take to the streets to show support for their rebellion.
“You asked to take to the streets to defend the constitution, well here we are,” he said in a video shot at night in which several heavily armed men and a national guard truck can be seen in the background.
“You wanted us to light the fuse, so we did. We need your support,” he added.
It’s unclear what happened to the mutinous guardsmen, and there was no immediate response from the government.
But in the adjacent neighborhood of Cotiza, a small group of residents could be seen banging pots and pans, burning trash and throwing rocks at police officers stationed outside the national guard post.
“We must defend our homeland,” Maria Fernanda Rodriguez, a 36-year-old manicurist, told The Associated Press, her eyes welling from the tear gas.
Domestic and international pressure has been mounting on Maduro to cede power after he began as second, six-year term that the U.S. and dozens of other foreign governments consider illegitimate, in part because he banned several leading opponents from running against him.
While discontent among Venezuelans is rising amid widespread food shortages and hyperinflation, Maduro is believed to have the loyalty of his top military command. In the past troops have easily put down small uprisings.