Merida, August 5, 2018 (venezuelanalysis.com) – Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro has survived an attempt against his life whilst speaking on live TV during a military celebration in Caracas.
The attack occurred during the 81st-anniversary parade of the National Guard in Bolivar Avenue in the centre of Caracas on Saturday.
Towards the end of the parade, various industrial DJIM600 drones – costing US $5000 each and more commonly used to carry cinematic cameras – loaded with C4 explosives were shot down by snipers at 5.41pm, causing two explosions just metres away from the president, his wife, and the minister of defence. Maduro was addressing the nation on live television broadcast at the time.
Following the explosions, panicked crowds ran from the parade as the presidential bodyguards covered Maduro and his entourage before rushing them away from the scene.
Neither the president nor his entourage were injured in the attack, but it has been reported that seven members of the National Guard received emergency medical care for injuries, with three remaining in a serious condition. No fatalities have been reported.
A short time later, the vice-president for communication, Jorge Rodriguez, addressed the nation to confirm the detail of the incident and the health of the president. He was followed by a live statement from President Maduro a short time later.
“They have tried to kill me today, and everything points towards the right wing forces, the Venezuela ultra-right in alliance with the Colombian ultra-right, and the name of [out-going Colombia President] Juan Manuel Santos is behind this assassination attempt… the first elements of the investigation point towards Bogota,” he stated. He also suggested the attempt had been financed from Miami, U.S.A.
Santos has recently made public statements suggesting that the mandate of Maduro is close to coming to an end. Following Maduro’s accusations, the Colombian foreign office issued a statement describing the Venezuelan president’s finger-pointing as “absurd” and “baseless.”
US authorities were also quick to distance themselves from the attack, with White House security advisor John Bolton saying “Without a doubt there wasn't any participation from the US government in the absolute.”
On Sunday, Interior Minister Nestor Reverol confirmed that following the search of a number of Caracas hotels, six citizens accused of being the “material and intellectual authors” of the terrorist attack have been arrested “within Venezuelan and abroad.” Two of those have a criminal record or were being sought by authorities for their roles in the 2014 anti-government street violence, he elaborated. Significant evidence was confiscated, and more arrests are expected.
Grassroots organisations – both Venezuelan and in other parts of the world – as well as allied governments were quick to express their solidarity with Maduro following the foiled attack. The Venezuelan armed forces also issued a statement confirming their “absolute loyalty” to the president shortly after.
Opposition groups have played down the attack, with some even claiming that it was staged by the government.
Who is behind this assassination attempt?
An anti-government grouping calling itself ‘Soldiers in T-Shirts’ has claimed responsibility for the attack, called Operation Fenix, through their Twitter account and a statement which was read at 8.30pm by Miami-based private news network Factors of Power.
“The operation was to fly two drones carrying C4 explosive to the presidential platform, presidential guard snipers shot them down before they arrived at their objective. We showed that they [the government] are vulnerable, today we didn’t achieve it but it’s only a question of time,” reads one tweet.
La operación era sobrevolar 2 drones cargados con C4 el objetivo el palco presidencial, francotiradores de la guardia de honor derribaron los drones antes de llegar al objetivo.
Demostramos que son vulnerables, no se logró hoy pero es cuestión de tiempo. #MilitaresPatriotas pic.twitter.com/teIEwygN3S
— Soldados de Franelas (@soldadoDfranela) August 4, 2018
It is unknown who is behind the organisation, which seems to have been formed in March 2014 during the period of violent anti-government street violence in Venezuela. At the time of writing, their website was down.
According to their Twitter account, the group is a combination of “military and civilian patriots loyal to the people of Venezuela” and “rebels for the cause of liberty.” They also claim to be “Bolivarian,” however no evidence of their roots in either the armed forces or the wider population is provided. It is equally unknown if they are based in Venezuela or abroad.
The public statement was read by Miami-based journalist Patricia Poleo, herself an outspoken critic of the government of Maduro who has been formally accused of being involved in the 2004 assassination of anti-corruption police investigator Danilo Anderson.
The statement claims that the assassination attempt looked to “restore the constitutional order,” which, according to them, has been broken by the current government.
Whilst not expressing affinity to any political grouping, the statement echoed many claims made by right-wing politicians, such as the supposed efforts of the government to sew “communism” in Venezuelan schools. The group also called for respect for the opposition-led National Assembly and for “true and free” elections, echoing ultra-rightist criticisms of the recent May 20 presidential elections.
Finally, they repeat language used during the 2014 and 2017 street violence by calling for “everyone to take to the streets” in order to “take power,” and for the installation of a “transition government.”
Amid national uncertainty, the country remains in a state of calm on Sunday, with only some very small and isolated responses to the call to the streets by the anti-government grouping.
Previous to the assassination attempt, the group tweeted threatening messages that “time will show us to be right and we will make them pay” in reference to the Venezuelan government.
At 6.06pm Saturday, only minutes after the attack, they retweeted their earlier Twitter message which claimed that “time has run out” for the democratically elected government of President Maduro.
Dicen que el tiempo todo lo dice, todo lo cobra o todo lo paga, en este caso el tiempo nos dará la razón y pasará la factura más cara que la vida puede cobrarles a quienes tanto daño han hecho a este noble pueblo, no les alcanzará lo robado para pagar tanta miseria y maldad.#MNSF pic.twitter.com/DxwK1O9tgU
— Soldados de Franelas (@soldadoDfranela) August 4, 2018