Drone Attack Attempt to Kill Venezuela’s President
Saturday, Venezuela’s socialist President Nicolas Maduro dodged assassination attempt when drones armed with explosives detonated while he was delivering a speech to hundreds of soldiers being broadcast live on TV.
Caught by surprise mid-speech, President Maduro and his wife, Cilia Flores, looked up at the sky and winced after hearing the sound of an explosion pierce the air.
“This was an attempt to kill me,” he said later in a retelling of the events. “Today they attempted to assassinate me.”
Information Minister Jorge Rodriguez said the incident took place shortly after 5:30p as President Maduro was celebrating the National Guard’s 81st Anniversary. The visibly shaken head of state said he saw a “flying device” that exploded before his eyes. He thought it might be a pyrotechnics display in honor of the event.
Within secs, President Maduro said he heard a 2nd explosion and pandemonium broke out. Bodyguards escorted President Maduro out of the event and TV footage showed uniformed soldiers standing in formation quickly scattering from the scene.
He said the “far right” working in coordination with detractors in Bogota and Miami, including Colombian President Juan Manuel Santos, were responsible.
“The investigation will get to the bottom of this,” he said. “No matter who falls.”
Venezuela’s government routinely accuses opposition activists of plotting to attack and overthrow President Maduro, a very unpopular leader who was recently elected to a new term in office in a vote decried by dozens of nations.
President Maduro has steadily moved to concentrate power as the nation reels from a devastating economic crisis.
Attorney General Tarek William Saab said the attempted assassination targeted not only President Maduro, but rather the military’s entire high command on stage with him.
Prosecutors have already launched their investigation and obtained critical details from the suspects in custody, said AG Saab, adding that he would give more details Monday.
“We are in the midst of a wave of civil war in Venezuela,” AG Saab said.
A Colombian official with the President’s office described President Maduro’s claims that President Santos was involved in the attack as baseless.
A senior fellow at the Washington Office on Latin America who has spent decades researching Venezuela, said the incident did not appear to be a staged attack by Prsident Maduro’s government for political gain.
Despite the optics, he said that he suspected that President Maduro would find a way to take advantage of it.