CARACAS, Aug 7 (Reuters) - Supporters of President Nicolas Maduro marched in Caracas on Monday in favor of a new legislative superbody as hackers took down dozens of state websites to show their support 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 unpopular leftist Maduro. But no more assaults appear to have followed and anti-government protests in Valencia were quickly controlled by tear gas.
The new, all-powerful legislative assembly aims to lock in the “Bolivarian revolution” begun almost 20 years ago by late President Hugo Chavez, 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 OPEC country.
“More than anything, this march is a call for peace,” a pro-Maduro activist told state television, giving her name as Ana.
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 4 months of opposition protests and unrest in which more than 120 people have died.
The new assembly has power to rewrite the constitution, re-jig state institutions and could allow the president to rule by decree in the oil-rich but economically-ailing country.
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.
A group calling itself The Binary Guardians said it had hacked around 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 told Reuters in an interview by email.
A representative, who said he was Venezuelan but declined to give specifics about the group or his location, said they were not affiliated with ‘Operation David’ but supported it.
The country’s CNE elections authority, which ran the July 31 vote 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. ( cne.gob.ve/ )
“Soldiers! Don’t give yourself to brutes, men who despise you and enslave you, who regiment your lives, tell you what to do, what to think and what to feel,” Chaplin says in the speech.
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.
Since the election of the constituent assembly, presidents like Donald Trump of the United States and Juan Manuel Santos of Colombia have called Venezuela a dictatorship as well. (Additional reporting by Alexandra Ulmer, Deisy Buitrago, and Eyanir Chinea; Reporting by Hugh Bronstein; Editing by Alexandra Ulmer and Andrew Hay)