CARACAS, (Reuters) – Venezuela’s government said today that a group of military officers who stole weapons as part of a failed revolt on Monday had delivered the arms to opposition party Popular Will.
Some two dozen officers attacked a National Guard outpost in the Caracas neighbourhood of Cotiza, a km (0.6 mile) from the presidential Miraflores palace, leading to opposition demonstrations in nearby parts of Caracas.
“Some of those who stole the weapons yesterday confessed that they were handed over to civilians belonging to the terrorist cell Popular Will,” Information Minister Jorge Rodriguez said in televised statements.
Government officials often describe the party as a terrorist organization, which Popular Will dismisses as an intimidation tactic against it.
Popular Will did not respond to a request for comment.
Rodriguez said the officers involved stole 51 rifles but that authorities had only recovered 40. The officers were arrested after the incident.
Popular Will activists plan to use the weapons to create violence during nationwide marches planned by both the government and the opposition for tomorrow, Rodriguez said.
Congress has called on citizens to take to the streets to protest against Maduro tomorrow, the 61st anniversary of the collapse of a military dictatorship.
The marches are held every year, but the opposition is unusually energized following Maduro’s Jan. 10 inauguration to a disputed second term that governments around the world have decried as illegitimate.
Opposition leader and congress chief Juan Guaido, who was briefly detained by intelligence agents this month, has received international support amid growing criticism of Maduro. U.S. Vice President Mike Pence released a video today in which he expressed support for Venezuela’s opposition and Guaido.