In the predawn hours this morning, December 22, defectors from the Venezuelan National Guard’s 513th Infantry Battalion (a.k.a. Mariano Montilla Battalion) launched an armed attack on Fort Luepa, near the border with Brazil. The defecting regular troops were supported by 30 reserve soldiers who happened to be Pemón indigenous tribesmen.
The rebels declared an uprising against Nicolas Maduro, who has usurped the office of the presidency in order to keep himself and his cronies in power. “We call on the Liberation Army to begin ending the usurpation!” declared the rebels.
At first, defenders of the Fort surrendered without a fight. The rebels took a colonel as hostage (allegedly a battalion commander) and they captured 112 AK-103 rifles that they quickly began smuggling out of the Fort. Shortly into the operation, chavista reinforcements arrived and a firefight ensued. According to Spanish-language news sources, one rebel soldier and 1 chavista soldier were killed in the skirmish before the rebels broke off contact and pulled back. The chavista troops recovered most of the stolen rifles and ammunition but not all of them.
At the same time as the attack on Luepa, another column of insurgents (likely the same organization) attacked Fort Escamoto, home of the 5102 Motorized Cavalry Squadron, near the city of Santa Elena de Uairén.
Shortly after falling back from Forts Luepa and Escamoto, the same group of rebel soldiers attacked the Maduro regime’s police stations in the villages of Kumarakapay and San Francisco de Yuruani, where they overtook the pro-regime police and captured multiples pistols and bulletproof vests.
A final wave of attack came from a group of alleged civilians who have been identified as Tupamaros. The Tupamaros are a known collective (colectivo), or civilian paramilitary groups who favor the Maduro regime for the privileges they receive in exchange for loyalty to the Bolivarian Revolution. If the last wave of attackers were truly Tupamaros, and not someone else in disguise, then their participation in this rebellion indicates a strong rivalry between different communist factions competing for Maduro’s table scraps, which for years have included a cut of the drug trafficking profits. (It wouldn’t be the first time Maduro’s paramilitaries got into a shootout with Maduro’s government soldiers.)
The rebels’ location is unknown but they’re believed to have retreated into Brazil where the Maduro regime can’t follow them, and Marxist guerrilla groups like the FARC Dissidents and the ELN don’t control vast stretches of the Brazilian border like they do with the Colombian borderlands.
The identity of the chavista forces who beat back the insurgents at Forts Luepa and Escamoto is also unknown at this time. However, we at the Mises-Mambi Institute believe it was Russian troops, who are known to be inside Venezuela, who are known to use those military bases, and who have also been confirmed to wear Venezuelan uniforms instead of Russian uniforms.
Fort Luepa and the towns of Kumarakapay and Yuruani are located in the Gran Sabana Municipality, which is on Pemón tribal land. Fort Escamoto is near the city of Uairén, near tribal land. The Pemón has been under seige since February, when the Maduro regime reignited the Indian Wars and inflicted the first massacre against the Pemón tribe this year. This wave of violence, which included the regime deploying 3,000 armed prison convicts against the natives for recognizing Juan Guaido as President.
Another massacre against the same tribe happened on November 22, but this time by an unknown group that wanted to take over indigenous land for illegal gold mining.