Venezuela's supreme court attacked with grenade from police helicopter
President Nicolás Maduro says grenade lobbed by “terrorists” did not explode in incident following months of increasing violence against government.
Venezuela’s president Nicolás Maduro said on Tuesday that a police helicopter had attacked the supreme court in Caracas – but a grenade tossed at the building did not explode.
Speaking on state TV, the 54-year-old president, who has been facing three months of opposition protests and some dissent from within government ranks, said that Venezuelan special forces were searching for the “terrorists” behind the attack.
There were unconfirmed witness reports the helicopter was being flown by a police officer who had declared himself in rebellion in a video on social media.
The helicopter had also flown over the interior ministry, Maduro said, adding: “I demand that the MUD [opposition coalition] condemns this eminently coup-mongering attack.
“It could have caused a tragedy with several dozen dead and injured.”
Pictures of a blue police helicopter carrying an anti-government banner appeared on social media around the same time as a video in which a pilot for the police squad, identified as Oscar Pérez, called for a rebellion against Maduro’s “tyranny” as part of a coalition of members of the security forces.
“We have two choices: be judged tomorrow by our conscience and the people or begin today to free ourselves from this corrupt government,” the man said while reading from a statement with four people dressed in military fatigues, ski masks and carrying what appeared to be assault rifles standing behind him.
Opposition activists have been staging unrelenting protests against a government they accuse of chronic mismanagement and increasingly authoritarian behaviour. The once-prosperous oil-producing country has suffered from rocketing inflation and spiralling crime rates.
The pro-government supreme court is particularly hated by Maduro’s opponents for its string of rulings bolstering his power and undermining the opposition-controlled legislature.
Earlier on Tuesday, Maduro had warned that his supporters would take up arms if his government was overthrown.
Speaking at a rally to promote a 30 July vote for a constituent assembly, Maduro said he would fight to defend the “Bolivarian revolution” of his predecessor Hugo Chávez.
“If Venezuela was plunged into chaos and violence and the Bolivarian revolution destroyed, we would go to combat. We would never give up, and what we failed to achieve with votes, we would do with weapons. We would liberate the fatherland with weapons.”
His comments, which were broadcast live to the country, came after one of the worst outbreaks of looting in three months of deadly protests. Some 68 businesses, including supermarkets, liquor stores, bakeries and food shops were ransacked in a wave of lawlessness that began Monday night in the city of Maracay, 100km west of Caracas, and continued well into Tuesday afternoon.
Videos circulating on social media showed at least a dozen supermarkets being ransacked by looters. The headquarters of the governing party, the PSUV, was also reportedly burnt.
More than 80 people have died since the clashes began in early April, but Monday night’s violence marked the first time that street clashes have spread into more generalised anarchy.
Maduro, who accuses protesters of being terrorists trying to wage a US-backed coup attempt against his government, is pushing for a constituent assembly that would redraft the country’s constitution. The move has been rejected by both the opposition and by a growing number of dissidents from within his own party.
On Tuesday, Maduro said the “destruction” of Venezuela would unleash a refugee wave dwarfing the migrant crisis in the Mediterranean. “Listen, President Donald Trump,” he said. “You have the responsibility: stop the madness of the violent Venezuelan right wing.”
Julio Borges, head of the opposition-led national assembly just said that Maduro’s statement could not be taken lightly.
“It is the clearest acknowledgment that Venezuela lives a dictatorship that intends to impose itself – against the democratic spirit – through a constituent assembly that will only deepen the social, political and humanitarian crisis that affects the country.”
Following what is really going on in Venezuela is a nightmare from a purely impartial perspective, trying to distinguish hard facts from propaganda (considered posting more sources than The Guardian but I felt the first post would be too long).
What I'm most curious about is exactly to what extend the US is involved in this current crisis. Blaming US foreign policy is always a comfortable narrative often used in many South and Central American countries but there is of course a very good reason for it.
― Frank Zappa
“Fault always lies in the same place: with him weak enough to lay blame.”
― Stephen King