Maduro gov’t denounces sea ‘invasion,’ opposition declares it a ‘set-up’

(Update adds details throughout)

Caracas, May 3 (efe-epa).- The government of Venezuela denounced Sunday what it said was an attempt at a maritime invasion on the coast near Caracas, which the opposition described as a set-up.

Venezuelan president Nicolás Maduro, who, for the moment, has not appeared in public, has received the support of the military leadership and the executive in the plenary session in the face of what the government describes as a “foiled maritime invasion” that left eight dead and two arrested.

The executive has shown only a small capsized boat, while those involved so far have not exceeded a dozen, an aspect that has fueled criticism from the opposition, which dismisses the allegations of a foiled invasion.

As has happened in the numerous coup attempts that government has denounced, the leaders of state institutions closed ranks around the president, while the Prosecutor’s Office began inquiries into what they consider an “attempted assassination” and “coup d’état.”

Interior and justice minister Néstor Reverol was the first to denounce it at around 13:00 GMT in a televised appearance in which he said “mercenaries” had tried to enter the country through the state of La Guaira, close to the Venezuelan capital.

“In the early hours of this May 3, a group of terrorist mercenaries from Colombia tried to carry out an invasion by sea with the aim of committing terrorist acts in the country,” the minister said.

The alleged invaders were also planning to “murder of leaders of the revolutionary government, increase the spiral of violence, generate chaos and confusion among the population and thereby lead to a new attempted coup,” according to the minister.

The Colombian government rejected the charges. “It’s an unfounded accusation that attempts to involve the Colombian government in a speculative plot,” the country’s foreign ministry said in a statement.

The president of the National Constituent Assembly of Venezuela, Diosdado Cabello, later said there were “confrontations” and some people may have escaped, so a search was underway.

“When they arrived at the coast there were confrontations and we don’t know if there are people who sank or swam elsewhere, so we’re saying that, so far, there are eight dead,” Cabello said.

Regarding the detainees, he said that one of them, a Venezuelan, admitted to having worked with the US Drug Enforcement Administration, an agency expelled from the country in 2005 and which the so-called Bolivarian Revolution in power in Venezuela accuses of promoting drug trafficking and coups d’etat in Latin America.

Among the material seized from the alleged invaders, Cabello said, are vehicles “on which to mount machine guns,” assault rifles, a Peruvian identity document and pieces of a military uniform bearing the US flag.

A group that identifies itself as that of the Venezuelan military, with some retired members, has released several videos on Twitter in which they claim responsibility for the attack while warning that these actions “are just beginning.”

“Join this liberating feat, let’s reestablish together peace and freedom and the constitutional thread,” said Robert Colina Parra, alias Pantera, who identified himself in one of the videos as captain of the Bolivarian National Guard, accompanied by 17 other uniformed men.

The relationship of Colina Parra with these events was previously confirmed by Cabello, who said that the captain is one of the eight deaths registered.

However, the Twitter account that has released the videos – Carive15 – assured in a message after Cabello’s statements that Pantera is still “alive and fighting,” a message that was re-broadcast by Iván Simonovis, commissioner for the security of opposition leader Juan Guaidó.

The Venezuelan opposition, led by Guaidó, has distanced itself from the attack and considers it a “false positive” created by the Maduro government to act against those who are politically opposed to it.

“The military or civilians allegedly extrajudicially executed by the dictatorship and their bodies have been used to create a false positive,” an opposition statement said.

The document, which claims to represent the position of the “legitimate government” of Venezuela headed by Guaidó, whom almost 60 nations recognize as interim president, contemplates another scenario where the incident was “a criminal act manipulated by the dictatorship to continue the persecution” of the opposition.

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