Crackdown Feared in Venezuela After Alleged Assassination Attempt on Maduro

Nicolas Maduro

Marco Salgado, a foreign correspondent who's been working in Venezuela for a decade, was close to Maduro at the time of the first explosion and took the picture of the bloodied soldier, one of seven injured according to the government, three of them seriously.

Witnesses said they heard and felt an explosion in the late afternoon, then saw a drone fall out of the sky and hit a nearby building.

In a television address, Maduro personally blamed Columbian President Juan Manuel Santos of involvement in the plot in collusion with Venezuelan exiles in Florida, without presenting any evidence for the claim.

"We believe that the regime will launch a fierce attack against the opposition, there will be more violations of human rights, and this gives rise to arrest, accuse and persecute the opposition within the country", said José Antonio Colina, president of Venezolanos Perseguidos Políticos en el Exilio (Veppex).

"There will be no forgiveness", Maduro warned, for what a military statement said was an act of "barbarism in a desperate attempt to destabilize" the government.

He said several conspirators were arrested in Venezuela, and appealed to President Donald Trump for help with arresting others connected to the attack in Miami.

"We demonstrated that they are vulnerable".

He said the Venezuelan political far right in collaboration with the Colombian far right and Colombian President Santos were behind the attack.

"It is contrary to military honour to keep in government those who not only have forgotten the Constitution, but who have also made public office an obscene way to get rich", the group said in a statement, which was passed to US-based opposition journalist Patricia Poleo, who read it on her YouTube channel.

Amid deadly, near-daily protests a year ago, a rogue police officer flew a stolen helicopter over the capital and launched grenades at several government buildings.

The parade Maduro attended was to mark the one-year anniversary of the Constitutional Assembly, a legislative body packed with Maduro loyalists that arrogated powers from the opposition-ruled National Assembly.

But the military managed to knock one of the drones off-course electronically and the other crashed into apartment building two blocks away from where Maduro was speaking to the hundreds of troops, Reverol said.

Earlier on Twitter, the group said it was made up of "patriotic military personnel and civilians loyal to the Venezuelan people who seek to rescue the democracy of a nation under dictatorship".

A little-known group called the "National Movement of Soldiers in T-shirts" claimed responsibility for the attack. The AP could not independently verify the authenticity of the message.

'Whoever did this, he'll use it to further restrict liberty and purge the government and armed forces, ' he said. Bodyguards surrounded Mr Maduro, 56, holding up bulletproof shields as he was led from the stage. No videos have come out that show the drones or the explosion itself.

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