In a video posted after the failed uprising, a man calling himself Captain Juan Caguaripano explained that the fighters were military dissidents who hoped to inspire full-blown rebellion, according to NBC News.
After the video was posted to the internet, nearby civilians gathered at the military base to protest Maduro.
“This is not a coup d’etat,” the man said in the video. “This is a civic and military action to re-establish the constitutional order.”
NBC News reports that at least two of the anti-government fighters were killed and seven were captured, while others escaped with stolen weapons. After the attack, President Maduro promised that such fighters would pay the “maximum penalty” for crimes against his administration. Maduro also characterized the attempted rebellion as a “terrorist attack,” and warned that “We know where they are headed and all of our military and police force is deployed.”
The Venezuelan government is divided against itself, with the pro-Maduro constitutional assembly hard at work to rewrite the constitution to expand Maduro’s powers and punish his long list of enemies. Meanwhile, the Venezuelan National Assembly, which is controlled by the opposition party, called on protesters to reject the new constitution at all costs. For the past four months, Maduro and the opposition have been at a bloody impasse, leaving the country on the brink of civil war.
Meanwhile, widespread food and medicine shortages continue.
The result has been months of street fighting between opposition protesters and pro-government police forces. So far, more than 120 people have died in the protests, and Maduro’s government has been denounced by human rights groups around the world for trying to violently suppress the protesters.
It’s unclear whether the attack on the Valencia military base was a sign of a divided military and more uprisings to come, or if it was a one-time event by a small group of rebel soldiers.
“It’s still very hard to know to what extent there are significant divisions within the military,” said Michael Shifter of Inter-American Dialogue.
One thing is clear, however: the attack on the military base represents a dangerous escalation of the Venezuelan crisis.
Political analyst Luis Vicente Leon told Reuters that more violence is all but certain:
“As the government radicalizes, these groups will tend to grow and the future could be full of conflict.”