Maduro clamps down on opposition in wake of "assassination attempt"

06 August, 2018, 13:13 | Author: Sue Mclaughlin
  • Security personnel surround Venezuela’s President Nicolas Maduro during an incident as he was giving a speech in Caracas Venezuela Saturday Aug. 4 2018. Drones armed with explosives detonated near Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro as he gave a spe

President of Venezuela Nicolas Maduro holding a press conference in Caracas, Venezuela.

Screengrab taken from a handout video released by Venezuelan Television showing Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro, his wife Cilia Flores and military authorities reacting to a loud band during a ceremony to celebrate the 81st anniversary of the National Guard in Caracas on 4 August, 2018.

The government lost little time in describing the incident as an attack involving explosive drones. Opposition leaders decried Maduro for broadly singling out his political opponents, and they warned he may use it to further suppress his critics. "But in the meantime, I think what we really should focus on is the corruption and the oppression of the Maduro regime in Venezuela".

Rodriguez said there was "an explosive charge. detonated close to the presidential podium" and in several other spots along the parade held in central Caracas. One was "diverted" by security forces while the second fell on its own and hit an apartment building, Reverol said. "In the next hours there could be more arrests". Hundreds of thousands of Venezuelans have left the country over this time, and previous year, 125 people were killed across four months of clashes between Venezuelan authorities and anti-regime protesters.

The attack highlights Maduro's challenges in maintaining control over the OPEC nation, where widespread food and medicine shortages have fuelled outrage and despair everywhere from hillside slums to military barracks.

Meanwhile Defence Minister Vladimir Padrino Lopez declared his unconditional loyalty to the president on national TV.

One of the witnesses - who showed the AP cellphone video of a drone hovering over a residential street two blocks away and then crashing into a building - said the police arrested the machine's pilot.

"A flying object exploded near me, a big explosion".

"It was so strong the building shook", she said.

The alleged attack happened as he addressed hundreds of soldiers in Caracas, the capital. He at first thought it might be a pyrotechnics display. Despite the optics, Smilde said he suspected that Maduro would nonetheless find a way to take advantage of it.

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Soldiers broke formation to flee and the broadcast came to an abrupt end.

"This was an attempt to kill me", he said later in an impassioned retelling of the event.

He blamed the Venezuelan political far right in collaboration with the Colombian far right, and the current Colombian President Santos of being behind the assassination attack.

Colombia's Foreign Ministry denied involvement, calling the allegations "absurd".

Speaking on "Fox News Sunday", Bolton said that if Venezuela had "hard information" of a potential violation of U.S. law, "we will take a serious look at it".

The group admitted the failure of what it called "Operation Phoenix" and did not confirm if the action was an attempt on Maduro's life. The little-known group Soldiers In T-shirts has claimed responsibility, saying it meant to fly two drones loaded with explosives at the president but they were shot down. The AP could not independently verify the authenticity of the message.

Maduro often accuses the opposition and the United States of working together to foment a "coup" to topple him.

Maduro replaced former President Hugo Chavez after his death from cancer in 2013.

He says the economic malaise gripping Venezuela is an "economic war" and any unrest is plotted by foreign powers.

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