Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro survived what officials said was an assassination attempt Saturday after several drones exploded near where he was standing while reviewing a parade in Caracas, the nation’s capital.
Video taken during the event showed Maduro looking up in the middle of a speech. His wife, Cilia Flores, can be seen wincing after a loud explosion. Soldiers then broke ranks from the parade to protect Maduro. The attack during a ceremony to celebrate the 81st anniversary of the founding of the Venezuelan National Guard took place at about 5:40 p.m.
As the explosions took place, Maduro voice could be heard on video saying “let’s go to the right,” The Washington Post reported.
“Explosions were heard,” said Communications Minister Jorge Rodríguez. “Investigations show clearly that flying artifacts or drones containing explosive material exploded near the presidential stage.”
“This was an attempt against the president,” he said, CNN reported.
Venezuelan President Maduro blamed far-right factions in Venezuela, the Colombian government and U.S. conspirators for Saturday's "assassination" attempt. Maduro escaped unharmed from the attack by drones, but seven National Guard soldiers were injured https://t.co/wO0YZk4EBk pic.twitter.com/j5Vwh2RC1y
— China Xinhua News (@XHNews) August 5, 2018
Manuel Berbín, who lives nearby, said he and his wife at first thought fireworks were going off.
“We heard the first explosion, and we were there thinking that it could have been a firework that exploded close to our apartment,” he told CNN. “Then we heard the second explosion, that was very strong. We went to the window, and at that time we saw the soldiers start to run, they started to move the cars quickly, the sirens started going.”
— BBC News (World) (@BBCWorld) August 5, 2018
“This was an attempt to kill me,” Maduro said in a TV address to the country after the attack, according to ABC. “Today, they attempted to assassinate me. I stand, alive and victorious, ready to follow the battles and fights that touch me forever.”
Maduro said that he believes the Venezuelan far right worked with the Colombian far right in the attack, blaming Colombian President Juan Manuel Santos.
A spokesman for Santos called the charge “baseless.”
Maduro also took a swipe at President Donald Trump.
“The preliminary investigation indicates that many of those responsible for the attack, the financiers and planners, live in the United States in the state of Florida,” Maduro said.
“I hope the Trump administration is willing to fight terrorist groups that commit attacks in peaceful countries in our continent, in this case Venezuela,” he said.
A group called “Soldiers in T-Shirts,” took responsibility for the attacks.
“The operation was to fly two drones charged with C4 with the presidential stage as the objective. But guard of honor snipers overtook the drones before they reached the target. We demonstrated that they’re vulnerable. We didn’t achieve it today, but it’s a matter of time. #PatriotMilitarymen,” the group tweeted, according to The Washington Post.
The authenticity of the claim could not be determined.
Some sources offered different explanations for the incident.
The Associated Press said it was told by some officials that the explosion was caused by a gas tank blowing up inside a nearby apartment building.
Rocio San Miguel, the head of Control Ciudadano, an investigative website focused on security and the military, labeled the incident “a security mistake.”
“A military drone was destroyed by the military because they lost control of it. It started descending and to avoid it hitting the presidential stage, they destroyed it,” she said, adding that the building explosion was not connected to the drone’s destruction.
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