While Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro was reviewing troops in a parade celebrating the country’s independence from Spain, pro-government demonstrators invaded the National Assembly and attacked several lawmakers with wooden sticks.
The attack took place in full view of national guardsmen assigned to protect the National Assembly.
Pro-government militias wielding wooden sticks and metal bars stormed congress on Wednesday and began attacking opposition lawmakers during a special session coinciding with Venezuela’s independence day.
Four lawmakers were injured. One of them, Americo de Grazia, had to be taken in a stretcher to an ambulance suffering from convulsions, said a fellow congressman.
“This doesn’t hurt as much as watching how every day how we lose a little bit more of our country,” Armando Arias said from inside an ambulance as he was being treated for head wounds that spilled blood across his clothes.
The attack, in plain view of national guardsmen assigned to protect the legislature, comes amid three months of often-violent confrontations between security forces and protesters who accuse the government of trying to establish a dictatorship by jailing foes, pushing aside the opposition-controlled legislature and rewriting the constitution to avoid fair elections.
Tensions were already high after Vice President Tareck El Aissami made an unannounced morning visit to the neoclassical legislature, accompanied by top government and military officials, for an event celebrating independence day.
Standing next to a display case holding Venezuela’s declaration of independence from Spain, he said global powers are once again trying to subjugate Venezuela.
“We still haven’t finished definitively breaking the chains of the empire,” El Aissami said, adding that President Nicolas Maduro’s plans to rewrite the constitution — a move the opposition sees as a power-grab — offers Venezuela the best chance to be truly independent.
After he left, dozens of government supporters set up a picket outside the building, heckling lawmakers with menacing chants and eventually invading the legislature themselves.
These aren’t your average pro-government supporters. They are paid goons, armed by the government. It’s their job to break up opposition protests.
Maduro is demanding an investigation into the attack on the National Assembly:
Later Maduro condemned the violence, calling for a full investigation during a speech while attending a military parade.
The clash followed Tuesday’s appearance of a 5-minute video posted by a former police inspector who allegedly stole a helicopter and fired on two government buildings last week.
Oscar Perez, repeating a call for rebellion among the security forces, said that he was in Caracas after abandoning the helicopter along the Caribbean coast and was ready for the “second phase” of his campaign to free his homeland from what he called the corrupt rule of President Nicolas Maduro and his “assassin” allies.
Perez gave no other details but pledged to join youth who have been protesting on the streets the past three months against Maduro.
“Stop talking. Get on the streets. Take action. Fight,” he said in the video, sitting before a Venezuelan flag and with what looks like an assault rifle by his side. He also denounced Maduro’s plan to rewrite the constitution.
I’m sure Venezuelan authorities will get on that investigation right away.
You have to admire the courage of opposition protesters, but I’m sorry to say that as long as Maduro has the guns, he has the power. He will also likely succeed in getting his “constitutional reforms” enacted — one way or another.
Maduro is grasping for more power than even his mentor, Hugo Chavez, would have dared dream of.