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Venezuela’s Maduro survives ‘drone attack’

Venezuelan President calls it an ‘assassination bid’, blames Colombian President Santos and the U.S.

August 05, 2018 08:11 am | Updated November 28, 2021 08:33 am IST - CARACAS

 Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro (L) gestures next to Minister of Defence General Vladimir Padrino (C), during a ceremony to celebrate the 81st anniversary of the National Guard in Caracas on Saturday.

Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro (L) gestures next to Minister of Defence General Vladimir Padrino (C), during a ceremony to celebrate the 81st anniversary of the National Guard in Caracas on Saturday.

At least one explosion rocked a military event where Venezuelan President Nicolás Maduro was giving a speech on Saturday and the government said it was a failed assassination attempt involving drones carrying explosives.

Mr. Maduro said “everything points” to a right-wing plot that initial investigation suggested was linked to Colombia and the U.S. State of Florida, where many Venezuelan exiles live. Several perpetrators were caught, he said, without elaborating.

Drones with explosives

Information Minister Jorge Rodriguez said drones loaded with explosives detonated close to the military event in downtown Caracas. A Venezuelan who was visiting family nearby told Reuters she heard two explosions.

Mr. Maduro was unharmed but Mr. Rodriguez said seven National Guard soldiers were injured. “This was an assassination attempt, they tried to assassinate me,” Mr. Maduro said in a later televised address.

A little-known group called the “National Movement of Soldiers in T-shirts” claimed responsibility for the attack. In a series of posts on social media, the group said it had planned to fly two drones but that snipers shot them down.

Mr. Maduro named Colombian President Juan Manuel Santos as being behind the attack, but gave no evidence to back that up. “The name of Juan Manuel Santos is behind this attack ... the initial investigations point to Bogotá,” said Mr. Maduro.

A Colombian government source said Mr. Maduro’s allegation was ”absurd” and that Mr. Santos was celebrating his granddaughter's baptism on Saturday. “He is not thinking of anything else, least of all bringing down foreign governments,” the source said.

During the incident, Mr. Maduro was speaking about Venezuela’s economy in an address when audio of the live television coverage was suddenly cut off. Mr. Maduro and others on the podium looked up startled and the cameras panned to soldiers who had been lined up in formation in the street. Scores of them ran in panic away from one area.

‘Culprits are in U.S.’

Photographs on social media appeared to show bodyguards shielding Mr. Maduro with black bulletproof panels. A photograph also showed an injured military official clutching his bloody head and being held up by colleagues.

Mr. Maduro said initial investigations indicated that “several of those intellectually responsible and the financiers of this attack live in the United States, in the State of Florida”. He called on U.S. President Donald Trump to “fight these terrorist groups.”

A senior State Department official said: “We’ve heard the reports coming out of Venezuela. We are carefully following the situation.”

Last year, a rogue Venezuelan police officer hijacked a helicopter and fired at government buildings in what he said was an action against a dictator. The officer was hunted down and killed by Venezuelan forces.

National Security Adviser John Bolton denied that the U.S. was behind the drone blast. “I can say unequivocally there is no U.S. government involvement in this at all,” Mr. Bolton told “Fox News Sunday”.

He suggested that the Maduro government could be behind the explosion, citing widespread corruption and oppression in Venezuela. “It could be a lot of things from a pretext set up by the Maduro regime itself to something else,” Mr. Bolton said, adding that there were no Americans injured in the blast.

“If the government of Venezuela has hard information that they want to present to us that would show a potential violation of U.S. criminal law, we will take a serious look at it,” he added.

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