Who tried to assassinate Nicolas Maduro?
Venezuelan president blames Colombia, right-wing opposition and exiles in Florida for failed drone strike
Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro has blamed Colombia, the opposition and elements within the US for a failed assassination attempt that left seven soldiers injured.
Maduro was speaking at a military event in Caracas when two drones carrying explosives reportedly detonated near his stand. Live footage of his speech shows the president and his wife suddenly looking upwards, startled, and dozens of soldiers running away. It is not clear if the drones were shot down or exploded prematurely.
Speaking from the presidential palace two hours after the incident, Maduro suggested an initial investigation showed Colombia and Venezuelan exiles living in the US state of Florida were behind the “right-wing plot” to kill him.
Striking a defiant tone, he said “everything points to the Venezuelan ultra-right in alliance with the Colombian ultra-right”, adding he had “no doubt” outgoing Columbian President Juan Manuel Santos was “behind this attack”.
A Colombian presidential source told CNN, that Maduro's accusations were “baseless” and “absurd”.
The Guardian says the two presidents “have often sparred, with Santos regularly labelling his Venezuelan counterpart a dictator and saying he is leading his country into economic and political turmoil”.
The Venezuelan president also claimed that “several of those intellectually responsible and the financiers of this attack live in the United States, in the state of Florida”, where there is a large Venezuelan expat community.
He added that some of those involved in the assassination attempt had already been captured and charged, although he did not specify the charges against them.
“There are still lots of unanswered questions in this, the latest plot twist in surreal Venezuela” says the BBC’s Katy Watson.
Already different versions of events are being circulated, with the Associated Press reporting firefighters at the scene said the incident was actually a gas tank explosion inside an apartment.
Yet despite conflicting reports, the government has been quick to point the finger.
After Maduro’s address, Communications Minister Jorge Rodriguez claimed Venezuela’s right-wing opposition was behind the attack.
Adding to the confusion, a little-known group called Soldiers in T-shirts claimed responsibility for the attack, although they have so far provided no proof and refused all media requests.
Posting on social media, the mysterious rebel group made up of Venezuelan civilians and military said: “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.”
Regardless of who was actually behind the failed assassination attempt, “what many people fear though is that the government will use this incident to justify a crackdown on any political opponents” says Watson.