Three men claiming to be rebelling Venezuelan soldiers appeared in a video released today claiming responsibility for the December 22 raids on military installations in Bolivar state, and calling on the rest of the armed forces to join them in rebelling against the Maduro regime. The video features a man who calls himself “First Lieutenant Josue Hidalgo” reading a statement from a sheet of paper. He is flanked by men he identifies as Lieutenant Franklin Caldera and Lieutenant Ruso Cardenas.
In the video, Lt. Hidalgo says that his group has rebelled against the Maduro regime, and points out that Venezuelan law “authorizes us… to use force on Venezuelan territory” to defend the constitution.
Lt. Hidalgo also claims that the group that he represents has vowed to take up arms against the Maduro government, as this is “the only means left” to restore freedom in the country.
In his statement, Lt. Hidalgo also mentioned the abuses that the Pemon indigenous people of Bolivar state have suffered at the hands of the Maduro regime and criminal organizations, which are fighting for control of mining on their lands.
The lieutenant also claimed that government reports that one soldier died in the December 22 raids are false, and that he had evidence of this which he would make available to the media, although he did not specify what the evidence was or when he would release it.
Below, the full video along with my translation:
Lt. Hidalgo: People of Venezuela: My name is Lieutenant Josue Hidalgo. I’m joined by Lieutenant Franklin Caldera and Lieutenant Ruso Cardenas. We are members of different branches of the National Armed Forces, and we are speaking to the nation now.
Today, December 28 2019, we are in the Republic of Venezuela. We are officers, professional soldiers and enlisted troops from Bolivar state. Our objective is to do our duty. We adhere to articles 333 and 350 of the constitution, which authorize us as soldiers to use force on Venezuelan territory to defend our constitution from those who have kidnapped our government by lying and manipulating the people and our laws, ignoring our constitutional rights.
It is important for us to point out that this military operation lacks any kind of national or international political support.
We hold true to our oath to defend our homeland and its institutions, even if it costs us our lives.
Venezuela is currently living through difficult times. Our politicians are the only one responsible for this. They’ve sunk people into misery so that only a select few can enrich themselves at the cost of the ordinary citizen.
To our brothers in arms: we do not want to fight you. That’s why we decided to withdraw from the confrontation that unfolded at the National Guard checkpoint during the overnight hours of December 22, after we carried out Operation Weipaka and Operation Aurora. [We withdrew] even though we outnumbered you and had superior firepower.
It is also important to point out that this was a clean operation: in other words, there were no active duty casualties. I bring this up in response to statements from the regime, which claims that a First Corporal died [on December 22]. You [the government] are responsible [for his death], and we have evidence of this which we will release to the media.
It is important to highlight that the regime’s accusations [against us], based on so-called investigations, are that we took up weapons as part of a false flag operation; that we trained in Colombian paramiltiary bases; and that we received help from civilians and foreign governments, are all completely false. On the contrary, [if that had been the case] we would not have succeeded in taking the weapons [from the installations], weapons which we will use to protect the people.
[Unintelligible] the Pemon people, whom you have so mistreated, whose lands you have stolen to extract gold, and they together with us, the Venezuelan Armed Forces, will set Venezuela free.
Do not look for anyone to blame for this, because it is you [the government] who is responsible for what has happened in this country, and of what is about to happen. Why don’t you talk about the massacres against indigenous communities? Why don’t you talk about the actions of the [unintelligible], the DGCIM, the FAES, which are in Santa Elena de [Uairen?], which carried out the massacres at Kumarapacay, Canaima, and most recently, at Ikabaru? You’re incapable of telling people the only truth that you know.
You have not destroyed us, because the liberation of Venezuela via the only means left–which is something that you have chosen–is just beginning.
Brothers in the Armed Forces: you are known historically as the forgers of liberty. The time has come to leave fear behind, to stop being at the personal service of the regime. We must rescue our institution’s honour, and let them [the government] be the ones to order you to take up arms against us publicly and come fight us.
There is no revolution to defend: only a people. To our Venezuelan brothers who clamour for an armed force: here we are, and we will give our last breath if necessary to ensure that the sound of battle is heard across every corner of the country, like the distant thunder, so that it may awaken the brave Venezuelan people and their insatiable appetite for freedom.
God and the Virgin are with us. Death to tyranny!
Lt. Caldera and Lt. Cardenas: Long live freedom!
It is not clear how many people beyond the three that are visible in the video belong to Lt. Hidalgo’s group, or what their exact whereabouts are.
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