Venezuela arrests two for barracks attack

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Media caption,

Army officers posted a video calling their move "a legitimate rebellion"

Two renegade officers who attacked a Venezuelan army base last weekend have been captured, the country's defence minister has said.

General Vladimir Padrino tweeted that the "leaders and masterminds of the paramilitary and terrorist assault" had been arrested.

The suspects are a 38-year-old former captain, Juan Carlos Caguaripano Scott, and a lieutenant, Jefferson Garcia.

Two of the rebels were killed and eight seized after the incident in Valencia.

Venezuela has seen four months of violent anti-government protests, and almost 130 people have died in clashes.

Just before the barracks attack, a video released on social media showed the uniformed men saying they were rising against the "murderous tyranny of President Nicolás Maduro".

Media caption,

Your video guide to the crisis gripping Venezuela

"This is not a coup but a civil and military action to re-establish constitutional order," said the leader, who gave his name as Juan Caguaripano.

Venezuelan officials say Mr Caguaripano was discharged from the army in 2014. They claim he commanded around 20 uniformed men during the attack.

He then escaped with Lieutenant Garcia and some stolen weaponry, they say.

The 6 August incident raised tensions in the divided country, where critics of President Maduro say he is trying to cement a dictatorship.

Mr Maduro insists his actions - which include creating a pro-government assembly with the power to rewrite Venezuela's constitution - are the only way to re-establish peace.

Image source, EPA
Image caption,
President Maduro is facing intense criticism from overseas, and violent protests at home

The US has led a chorus of international alarm against the Maduro government in recent weeks, and has imposed sanctions on several high-ranking Venezuelans - including the president.

President Donald Trump said on Friday that he had not ruled out "a possible military option if necessary" against Venezuela.

Gen Padrino dismissed the claim as an act of "craziness". He told Venezuela's state television: "It is an act of supreme extremism. There is an extremist elite that rules the United States.

"As a soldier, I stand with the Venezuelan armed forces, and with the people. I am sure that we will all be on the front lines of defending the interests and sovereignty of this beloved Venezuela."

The White House said Mr Maduro had requested a phone call with his US counterpart on Friday. It said President Trump would speak to Venezuela's leader "as soon as democracy is restored in that country".