A televised address by Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro was cut short during a speech at a military event on Saturday and soldiers were seen running before the TV transmission was cut off.
The 81st anniversary of the country’s National Guard was abruptly interrupted after an alleged assassination attempt on Maduro as documented on video, Maduro was delivering his speech when he and those around him onstage suddenly looked up as participants in the military demonstration rushed from the scene, according to several Venezuelan media outlets with access to the footage
Explosions caused pandemonium sending National Guard troops scurrying in what administration officials called an assassination attempt using drones.
Maduro, who was unharmed, later told the nation, “To all of our friends in the world, I am fine, I am alive,” blaming right-wing elements and added, “The Bolivarian revolution keeps its path.”
“This was an attempt to kill me,” he said later in an impassioned retelling of the events. “Today they attempted to assassinate me.”
Within seconds, Maduro said he heard a second explosion and pandemonium ensued. Bodyguards escorted Maduro out of the event and television footage showed uniformed soldiers standing in formation quickly scattering from the scene.
“That drone came after me,” he said. “But there was a shield of love that always protects us. I’m sure I’ll live for many more years.”
Saturday’s drone attack was the latest in a string of attempts in recent years.
According to NTN24 broadcaster, the assassination attempt on Maduro was alleged to have been committed with the use of a drone filled with C-4 explosives. Jorge Rodríguez, the communications minister, said the attackers had used “several flying devices” that were detonated near where the president was standing.
The attack came shortly after 5:30 p.m.
— Thomas van Linge (@ThomasVLinge) August 4, 2018
Maduro as well as the rest of the political and military leadership of Venezuela are fine and were not injured during the attack, according to the president of a state-owned bank Miguel Perez Abad.
— Guy Elster (@guyelster) August 4, 2018
Adding to the confusion, a little-known group calling itself Soldiers in T-shirts claimed responsibility, saying it planned to fly two drones loaded with explosives at the president, but government soldiers shot them down before reaching its target. The Associated Press could not independently verify the authenticity of the message.
“We showed that they are vulnerable,” the group said in a tweet. “It was not successful today, but it is just a matter of time.”
The organization did not respond to a message from The Associated Press.
David Smilde, a senior fellow at the Washington Office on Latin America who has spent decades researching Venezuela, said the incident did not appear to be a staged attack by Maduro’s government for political gain.
The “amateurish” attack prompted embarrassing images of Maduro cut off mid-sentence with droves of soldiers running away in fear, making the president appear vulnerable, Smilde noted. Despite the optics, Smilde said he suspected that Maduro would nonetheless find a way to take advantage of it.
“He will use it to concentrate power,” Smilde said. “Whoever did this, he’ll use it to further restrict liberty and purge the government and armed forces.”
Additional reporting by agencies