Supporters of Venezuelan president Nicolas Maduro marched in Caracas on Monday in support of a newly created constitutional assembly as hackers took down dozens of state websites to show their backing for a pre-dawn armed assault on a military base the day before.
Those who attacked the army base near the city of Valencia said their “Operation David,” in reference to the biblical story of David and Goliath, was aimed at starting an insurgency against Maduro. But no more assaults appear to have followed and anti-government protests in Valencia were quickly controlled by tear gas and pellets.
The new, all-powerful constitutional assembly aims to lock in the “Bolivarian revolution” begun almost 20 years ago by former president Hugo Chavez, president Maduro’s mentor and predecessor. Maduro has called the assembly Venezuela’s only hope of peace but opponents say it will cement dictatorship in the country.
About 2,000 people jammed the streets in front of Venezuela’s congressional complex, where the constituent assembly will hold its sessions. They chanted in support of the assembly and called for an end to over four months of opposition protests and unrest in which more than 130 people have been killed.
The new assembly has power to rewrite the constitution, modify state institutions and could allow the president to rule by decree. The opposition says the assembly is intended to keep Maduro in office despite approval ratings battered by a deep recession and shortages of food and medicine.
Attorney General Luisa Ortega, who was sacked, questioned the constitutional assembly as 'illegal and illegitimate', a de facto attempt to ignore the constitution and claims the election of the assembly's members was fraudulent.
A group calling itself the Binary Guardians said it had hacked some 40 state web sites – and added they were surprisingly easy to break into.
“Our intention is to give hope to people that no matter how strong the enemy seems, there is strength in unity,” the group said by email.
A representative from the group, who said he was Venezuelan but declined to give specifics about the organization or his location, said they were not affiliated with Operation David but supported it.
The country’s CNE elections authority, which ran the vote on July 31st for the new 545-member “constituent assembly”, was among the sites hacked. Its hacked page featured a flyer in favor of Operation David, and a video showing a clip from Charlie Chaplin film The Great Dictator. In the clip, Chaplin gives a rousing speech against authoritarianism.
Venezuela’s opposition has long referred to Maduro as a dictator, especially since his loyalist supreme court started throwing out laws passed by the opposition-controlled congress.