Analysis Of This Weekend's Events In Venezuela
LULU GARCIA-NAVARRO, HOST:
We are following news out of Venezuela this morning, though we're not yet clear what it means. There's been a skirmish in the Venezuelan city of Valencia. It began early Sunday with reports of shots fired. And the Venezuelan authorities now say they have suppressed what they're characterizing as a, quote, "terrorist attack," according to The Associated Press. This all comes after the disputed election and formation of a new legislative superbody closely aligned with President Nicolas Maduro. NPR's Philip Reeves has just arrived in Venezuela. Good morning, Philip.
PHILIP REEVES, BYLINE: Good morning.
GARCIA-NAVARRO: What have you learned about what is happening in Valencia?
REEVES: Well, we first learned about this, Lulu, when a top official from the ruling Socialist Party announced there had been what he called a terrorist attack at a military base near Valencia, which, as you know, is the third-largest city in Venezuela, about two hours from the capital. And he made this announcement shortly after a video appeared on social media in which you see men in military uniform declaring a rebellion. And in front of these men - there's about 20 of them. Some of them have assault rifles. And in front of them, there's a man who identifies himself as a captain. And he announces that this is what he calls a civil and military action to re-establish constitutional order, not a coup, he says
GARCIA-NAVARRO: How sure are we that the video is legitimate and that this is actually an attempt to do what they say they're going to do? We've heard the Venezuelan government make claims before that it is under attack that have proven to be untrue.
REEVES: Well, it is extremely difficult, especially when a story is still evolving, to be absolutely certain on these matters. There is a very intense propaganda war going on in Venezuela at this time. But people do seem to be giving more credibility to this than they have to previous reports. And it's not just coming from a senior party official. Since that time, the governor of the state in which Valencia is located has tweeted that seven people have been arrested. And military officials are saying the same thing. Whether that adds a huge amount more weight to the story, one doesn't know. But it is certainly the case that people here do seem to be taking this seriously.
GARCIA-NAVARRO: Could this be a sign of cracks in the military? The military, in so many ways, is seen as the key to propping up the Maduro government, which we should note is an elected government.
REEVES: Well, that is a very critical issue in this whole worsening political crisis in this country. So far in the last four months of protests and unrest in which more than 120 people have been killed, the military, although it's been under considerable public pressure to support the opposition, has, broadly speaking, stood pretty firmly by President Maduro. Everybody watching the situation from outside has been monitoring it very closely to see if any cracks appear because it was broadly thought by analysts of the situation that military support is crucial to Maduro's continuation in power, a power that he is now attempting to consolidate by becoming increasingly more autocratic. And so the army's support, because it's viewed as crucial, is watched very closely. And this incident will be given a great deal of attention by those people and by others who are following the tragic situation here.
GARCIA-NAVARRO: Phil, just briefly - we only have a few seconds left - but this is happening at an extremely turbulent time. What else has been going on?
REEVES: Well, exactly. I mean, yesterday, the country's chief law officer was voted by a vote by the new constituent assembly, that extremely controversial body that much of the world regards as illegitimate - they voted to replace the chief prosecutor, who's been an increasing critic of Maduro, and replace her with a loyalist. So it is a very, very turbulent time in Venezuela right now, where news seems to be breaking on an hourly basis.
GARCIA-NAVARRO: That's NPR's Philip Reeves. Thank you so much.
REEVES: You're welcome.
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