Venezuelan military gives Maduro 'unconditional' backing

Minnie Murray
August 6, 2018

Interior and Justice Minister Nestor Reverol announced the arrests on state television, saying "several vehicles have been seized and hotel raids carried out in Caracas where important information was collected".

He says security officers disabled one drone that was flying toward the stage where Maduro was standing beside his wife and other high-ranking officials. While the video doesn't show an explosion, the witness said it fell and then exploded, starting a fire in the building.

Firefighters at the scene, however, told the Associated Press that the culprit was a gas tank explosion in a neighboring apartment building.

One showed a cellphone video of a drone hovering over a residential street two blocks away and then crashing into a building.

Reverol said the 2 pounds of explosives on each drone could have affected an area of more than 160 feet.

The explosion, which the government said injured seven soldiers, took place during a televised Caracas military parade.

Meanwhile, the BBC said Defence Minister Vladimir Padrino Lopez declared his unconditional loyalty to the president on national TV.

One of the suspects had an outstanding arrest warrant for involvement in a 2017 attack on a military base that killed two people, Reverol said, an incident that followed four months of anti-government protests.

Venezuelan opposition leaders are fearing a crackdown and increased repression following a freaky, alleged assassination attempt against the country's strongman president, Nicolas Maduro on Saturday night in Caracas.

Maduro pointed the finger at outgoing Colombian President Santos and "the ultra-right wing", a term he uses to describe domestic opposition, as a mysterious rebel group claimed responsibility.

"They tried to assassinate me today", Maduro said on Saturday evening, claiming that "I have no doubt that everything is pointing at the Venezuelan right, the extreme right in alliance with the Colombian extreme right".

Police arrested the drone pilot, the witness said.

Officials say attackers flew drones loaded with explosives toward the president during an open-air military ceremony that was broadcast on live television.

Once safely entrenched back in the presidential palace, Maduro barked out a defiant message to his detractors in a national address.

Cuban President Miguel Diaz-Canel and his predecessor Raul Castro "strongly condemn the attempted attack against President Nicolas Maduro", the Cuban foreign ministry said on its Twitter account.

Another resident apparently saw the same drone.

Venezuela's attorney general, Tarek William Saab, said he had ordered an investigation into the incident, assigning three prosecutors to the investigation.

So far, Maduro has offered no proof to back up the charges of Colombian or United States involvement.

Maduro, a 55-year-old former bus driver, has effectively sidelined the fractured opposition through control of the courts and the electoral body - and unstinting support from the military, which holds key posts in his government.

"It could be a lot of things from a pretext set up by the Maduro regime itself to something else", USA national security adviser John Bolton told conservative news network Fox on Sunday.

Maduro often accuses the opposition and the United States of working together to topple him.

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