Venezuela appears to be sliding towards a more volatile stage of unrest after anti-government forces looted weapons during a weekend raid on a military base and frustration over what some see as an ineffectual opposition leadership boils over.
Last week’s installation of an all-powerful new legislative body run by leftist President Nicolas Maduro’s Socialist Party loyalists, despite massive protests and a global outcry has left many Venezuelans feeling there are no more democratic options to oppose the government.
That sentiment may have helped trigger Sunday’s raid on a military base near the city of Valencia by soldiers and armed civilians, in which the government said two people were killed. Venezuelan authorities say they are hunting 10 of the attackers who escaped with a cache of weapons.
In a pre-taped video, the group of more than a dozen men in military-style uniforms said they were seeking to restore constitutional order and called for Maduro to step aside in favour of a transitional government.
The raid has raised the spectre of a coup or a surge in already serious levels of violence in the country of 30 million as its slides further into an economic crisis and chaos.
Even before Sunday’s attack, Maduro’s consolidation of power had left many protesters disappointed with what they see as a quarrelsome and self-interested opposition coalition.
More than 120 people have been killed and thousands arrested in four months of unrest that failed to prevent last month’s elections to the new constituent assembly.