By Girish Gupta and Alexandra Ulmer
VALENCIA/CARACAS, Venezuela (Reuters) – Venezuelan authorities suppressed a small rebellion at a military base near the city of Valencia on Sunday, arresting seven men who they say participated in a “terrorist attack” against the government of unpopular President Nicolas Maduro.
Earlier on Sunday a video circulated on social media showing a group of men in military uniform announcing an uprising in the wake of the creation of a pro-government legislative superbody on Friday, which was widely condemned as a power grab.
Some of the alleged plotters got away with weapons stolen from the base, and state security forces were “intensely” searching for them, the defense ministry said in a statement.
Maduro, in a televised address, congratulated the armed services for beating back what he called Sunday’s “terrorist attack.”
Hundreds took to the streets in Valencia to support the uprising, said resident Carolina Herrera, who like other witnesses reported shots through the night.
But hooded protesters had been largely dispelled with tear gas by midday on Sunday, and the rest of the South American country of 30 million appeared to be calm.
Still, the episode highlights how volatile Venezuela is after four months of sustained anti-government protests over what the opposition calls the country’s slide into a dictatorship.
Last week Venezuela elected a 545-member legislative superbody that Maduro calls Venezuela’s only hope for restoring peace. The opposition calls it a naked power grab aimed at keeping the president in office despite low approval ratings.
On Saturday the country’s new “constituent assembly” removed the country’s dissident chief prosecutor from her post and ordered her to stand trial, confirming opposition fears that it would use its powers to root out critics of the government.
The prosecutor, Luisa Ortega, had become Maduro’s main challenger from within the ruling socialist movement since the start of sustained opposition street protests in April. The opposition, already on control of the country’s traditional Congress, boycotted the election for the constituent assembly.
Authorities called the rebels mercenaries working for a U.S.-backed opposition to bring down nearly two decades of socialism in Venezuela, raising the specter of a further government crackdown on dissent in coming days.
“These attacks, planned by delirious minds in Miami, only strengthen the morale of our armed forces and the Bolivarian…