August 11, 2017 / 11:36 PM / 8 days ago

Ringleader of Venezuela military base attack captured: minister

FILE PHOTO: Demonstrators run and ride their motorcycles near Fuerte Paramacay military base during clashes with security forces in Valencia, Venezuela August 6, 2017.Andres Martinez Casares

CARACAS (Reuters) - The ringleader of a recent attack on a Venezuelan military base and another military officer in the raid have been captured, Defense Minister Vladimir Padrino said in a tweet on Friday.

The ministry launched a nationwide manhunt for Juan Carlos Caguaripano, a former National Guard captain, on Monday. The assault on the military base on Sunday coincided with a video circulated on social media in which Caguaripano called for a general uprising against unpopular socialist President Nicolas Maduro.

"This capture has dealt a hard blow against terrorism," Padrino tweeted.

The announcement came just after U.S. President Donald Trump threatened military intervention in Venezuela in response to the country's humanitarian and political crisis.

Military officer Yefferson Garcia, who was part of the 20-member cadre that took part in the pre-dawn raid on the base in the city of Valencia, was also arrested, Padrino tweeted.

The assault highlighted the growing volatility in the oil-rich but economically-ailing country after four months of sustained anti-government protests and unrest in which more than 120 people have been killed.

The late July election of 545-member legislative superbody, called the constituent assembly and stacked with Maduro allies, drew international condemnation for usurping the authority of Venezuela's opposition-controlled congress.

The opposition has denounced Maduro for dragging Venezuela toward dictatorship and has appealed to Venezuela's military for help at a time of rising tensions between Maduro and the United States.

The Venezuelan government said it would respond later on Friday to Trump's threat of intervention.

Reporting by Hugh Bronstein and Deisy Buitrago; Editing by Sandra Maler and Andrew Hay

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