Hackers Hit Venezuelan Government Sites After Army Base Attack In Valencia

After an attack on an army base in the central city of Valencia, Venezuela, a group calling itself “The Binary Guardians” hacked approximately 40 Venezuelan government websites, including the National Electoral Council and Venezuelan navy. The group targeted the leadership of Venezuela President Nicolás Maduro and posted messages appearing to support the men who committed the attack.

The attack, which occurred on Sunday, August 6, 2017, was carried out by a group, whose commander was identified as being Juan Caguaripano who was a former Captain of the National Guard’s 41st Brigade. In a video, Caguaripano declares in front of a group of men wearing military uniforms that they are a “legitimate rebellion … to disregard the murderous tyranny of Nicolás Maduro. … We clarify that this is not a coup, it is a civic and military action to restore constitutional order, but even more to save the country from total destruction.” The raid was executed by a group of 20 people and two were killed while 10 escaped with weapons. On state television, Maduro called the incident a “terrorist attack” and noted that anti-government leaders from the United States and Colombia supported the 41st Brigade. Pictures of the 10 men were flashed across state television channels during the countrywide search for the remaining assailants.

The occurrence in Valencia was a direct result of the newly appointed Constituent Assembly, which was chosen on July 30, meeting for the first time. On May 1, Maduro announced that he would form a constituent assembly to a rewrite Venezuela’s Constitution that was originally passed in 1999 by his mentor and former Venezuelan President Hugo Chávez. Maduro has argued that the new Constitution will promote peace in the divided country and promote dialogue. However, he has not given specific examples of how the new constitution will bring about such changes. Critics of Maduro have often labelled him as a dictator and his legislative decisions including the Constituent Assembly have faced widespread objection. The opposition views the new Constitution as a way for Maduro to cement his power by putting a delay on the regional election later this year and the presidential poll in December 2018 because no time limits have been set. After the new constitution is drafted a referendum will be held for it to be approved, which opposition fears could never occur. There are also fears that the constituent assembly will weaken the National Assembly, which holds an opposition majority. The government and Maduro also saw backlash after the Constituent Assembly fired Venezuela’s Chief Prosecutor Luisa Ortega during its first session. Ortega was once in support of Maduro, but now criticizes the leader and has accused him of human rights abuses.

Leaders of countries, such as the United States President Donald Trump and Colombian President Juan Manuel Santos have referred to Maduro as a dictator. Many nations have attempted to negotiate peaceful solutions within the divided country. For example, José Luis Rodríguez Zapatero, the former Prime Minister of Spain, sought to decrease the tensions, especially due to Spain’s business ventures in South America, but it found no avail. As a result, the country remains immensely divided by who its citizens support for the leadership of their country. For instance, the name Chavista has been given to the citizens that continue to support the policies of Chávez and praise the late President and Maduro for bringing the country out of poverty. On the other hand, the opposition wants to see an end of Venezuela’s United Socialist Party and believe the country’s democracy has fallen and the economy has been mismanaged. The opposition group has four key demands, which are as follows: “[the] removal from office of the Supreme Court justices who issued the 29 March ruling, general elections in 2017, creation of a ‘humanitarian channel’ to allow medication to be imported to counter the severe shortages in Venezuela, and [the] release of all the ‘political prisoners,’” according to BBC.

With that said, the oil-rich country continues to face falling oil prices, rampant inflation, food and medicine shortages, and violent demonstrations that have caused more than 120 deaths. Without effective diplomacy fostered by outside nations between the two national groups, Venezuela will continue to split apart and move farther away from a productive solution being found for the country.

Nicole Havens