Venezuelan President Targeted in Attack Attempt, Minister Says



Venezuelan President Targeted in Attack Attempt, Minister Says

President Nicolás Maduro in an image taken from state television on Saturday. His wife, Celia Flores, appeared to flinch as the blast went off.

By Ana Vanessa Herrero and Nicholas Casey

CARACAS, Venezuela — Venezuelan President Nicolás Maduro was the target of an attempted attack by drones that detonated explosives near him on Saturday while he was attending a military ceremony in the capital, Caracas, his communications minister said.

Jorge Rodríguez, the minister, said Mr. Maduro was unharmed and will speak later on Saturday about what happened. The attack created pandemonium when National Guardsmen, standing in formation, broke ranks and scattered in every direction.

URGENTE: El desfile de Maduro se suspendió inesperadamente. Todos salieron corriendo.

— Yusnaby Pérez (@Yusnaby) August 4, 2018

Mr. Rodríguez said the attackers had used “several flying devices, drones, that had explosives that detonated” near where the president was standing.

The attack came shortly after 5:30 p.m. during an event the government said was meant to celebrate the 81st anniversary of the country’s National Guard.

During the president’s speech, which was being broadcast live on state television, the camera began to shake. Mr. Maduro then looked into the air as his wife, Cilia Flores, flinched and reached for another official to brace herself.

The video feed was cut off, but Mr. Maduro can be heard continuing to talk as voices in the background yell for others to flee.

The video feed then showed figures dressed in black breaking through a barrier from the sidelines of a wide street where hundreds of uniformed guardsmen were arrayed in formation. The figures in black run toward the guardsmen, who abruptly flee in panic.

The transmission then cut off.

In a second video posted on social media, a woman filmed the ceremony from a building above and said she heard two explosions.

Venezuelan soldiers scattered after the explosion.Creditvia Reuters

“Running like rats,” the woman says, referring to the government officials. “All of those fancy cars of the plugged-in elites trying to get away at the same time.”

It was not the first time that the government, which has presided over years of food shortages and rules with an authoritarian fist, has suffered a spectacular attack in its capital.

In June 2017, Óscar Pérez, a rogue police officer commandeered a helicopter and used it in a brazen midday assault to drop grenades on the Supreme Court building and to fire on the Interior Ministry.

Mr. Pérez took to Instagram to call for others to join his cause and wage attacks against military bases, but he was killed by the government during an assault in January.

In another attack last year, a group of soldiers struck a military barracks west of Caracas. Like Mr. Pérez, they released videos calling for others to join their cause, but no rebellion materialized.

And in 2016, Mr. Maduro himself was attacked by a mob who chased him down the street banging pots and pans and screaming that they had no food.

Inflation is expected to reach one million percent this year and has created a spectacular economic collapse unprecedented for a country with the large oil reserves of Venezuela. Economists blame decades of mismanagement under Mr. Maduro, and his predecessor Hugo Chávez.

Despite widespread discontent, Mr. Maduro continues to hold power. In May, he was declared the victor of an election that carries his term until 2025. His most popular rivals were banned from running, and opposition parties boycotted and said the election was rigged.

On Saturday, VivoPlay, a Venezuelan broadcaster, said its reporting team had gone missing after members of the National Guard seized its equipment as they tried to report on the events.

Ana Vanessa Herrero reported from Caracas, Venezuela, and Nicholas Casey from Popayán, Colombia.

A version of this article appears in print on , on Page A9 of the New York edition with the headline: Drone Attack Targeted Venezuelan President, Minister Says. Order Reprints | Today’s Paper | Subscribe

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