News & Politics

Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro Survives Apparent Assassination Attempt

Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro Survives Apparent Assassination Attempt
Venezuela's President Nicolas Maduro, right, speaks with Vice President Jorge Arreaza upon their arrival to the National Pantheon for 185th anniversary of the death of independence hero Simon Bolivar in Caracas, Venezuela, Thursday, Dec. 17, 2015. (AP Photo/Fernando Llano)

Venezuelan President Nicolas Maruro survived an apparent assassination attempt on Saturday, according to government officials. Information Minister Jorge Rodriguez called the incident an “attack” against the country’s leader, but said Maduro had escaped unharmed.

Drones loaded with explosives were apparently detonated near a military event in Caracas where Maduro was speaking at a celebration honoring the 81st anniversary of the country’s National Guard.

“At exactly 5:41 p.m. in the afternoon several explosions were heard,” said Rodriguez in a live address minutes after the incident. “The investigation clearly reveals they came from drone-like devices that carried explosives.”

In the video below, shared on Twitter by Walla foreign affairs editor Guy Elster, Madura is seen on the podium speaking with the crowd about Venezuela’s economy.

“We are going to bet for the good of our country,” Maduro declared. “The hour of the economy recovery has come.”

The audio suddenly drops, and Maduro, his wife Cilia Flores, and other officials on the podium peer up at the sky. The camera then cuts to the scene on the street, where soldiers and others in the crowd are seen running away from what may have been an explosion.

Elster tweeted, “Unconfirmed reports say it was an assassination attempt of Maduro by a drone, unclear if there is any casualties in this incident.”

The picture below appears to show a fire where a drone crashed into a building:

Seven members of the Venezuelan National Guard were reportedly injured in the attack.

More video footage of the chaos in Caracas here:

According to a report at the Washington Post, firefighters on the scene are disputing the government’s version of events.

Maduro has been under increasing pressure from Venezuelans who have suffered under his socialist regime’s tanking economy.

On Monday, he surprised the world by admitting that his economic program has been a failure.

“The production models we’ve tried so far have failed, and the responsibility is ours—mine and yours,” Maduro told the Socialists United (PSUV) congress.

Inflation is off the charts, and Venezuela’s GDP continues to contract. Reuters reported earlier this week that rolling power blackouts in the state of Zulia “pile more misery on Venezuelans living under a fifth year of an economic crisis that has sparked malnutrition, hyperinflation and mass emigration.”

“OPEC member Venezuela’s once-thriving socialist economy has collapsed since the 2014 fall of oil prices,” the report continued.

PJM’s Stephen Green wrote on Friday:

The country still possesses the world’s largest oil reserves, so there’s plenty of oil wealth. It’s still right there in the ground. It hasn’t gone anywhere. The problem is that Bolivarian socialism has ruined the country’s extraction industry.

When Hugo Chavez took over the country in 1998 and began imposing his socialist regime, oil prices were at around $18 a barrel. Twenty years later they’ve “collapsed” to… about $70, with some temporary lows around $40 or so.

That is to say, oil prices since 2014 have averaged about triple what they were in 1998. And from ’98 to 2014, oil was mostly on an upward trajectory and routinely went for well over $100. So the question isn’t how this “crisis” was caused by a “collapse” in oil prices. The question is: What the hell did Maduro and Chavez do with all the damn money?

The answer, of course, is that they shared the wealth with a handful of favored government officials while the proletariat suffered, a now sadly familiar pattern with socialist governments. Have Venezuelans finally had enough of Maduro?

Update 11:22 p.m. EST: In a television address after the incident in Caracas, Maduro said, “This was an assassination attempt, they tried to assassinate me.” He said that “everything points” to a right-wing plot against him, suggesting that Venezuelans living in exile in Colombia or Florida may have been involved.

“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 added that several perpetrators have been caught.

A group calling itself the “National Movement of Soldiers in T-shirts” claimed responsibility for the attack in a series of social media posts.

“We demonstrated that they are vulnerable. We didn’t have success today, but it’s just a question of time,” the group said.

This article has been updated to include additional information about the incident.