January 21, 2019 9:47 am
Updated: January 22, 2019 2:10 pm

Violence breaks out after reported mutiny by national guard unit in Venezuela

WATCH: Venezuelan police fire tear gas at protesters after reported mutiny by national guard outpost

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Security forces have fired tear gas against protesters in a poor neighbourhood just 3 kilometres 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.

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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.

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“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,” Figueroa added.

Authorities arrested a group of military officials for stealing weapons from a national guard outpost, the government said in a statement Monday.

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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.

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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.

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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.

With a file from Reuters

© 2019 The Canadian Press

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