Grenades, a raid and now a drone: incidents targeting Venezuela’s Maduro
CARACAS – A grenade attack, a rebel raid and now an alleged drone bombing: Venezuela’s President Nicolas Maduro and his government have been targeted several times since he entered office in 2013.
– Drone ‘attack’ –
On Saturday, Maduro said he had escaped an “assassination” attempt using an explosive-laden drone during a Caracas military parade, which the government said injured seven soldiers.
The government pointed the blame at “the ultra-right wing” — its term for the opposition — but Maduro also accused Colombia’s President Juan Manuel Santos and financiers in the United States.
He added some of those involved were arrested and an investigation was under way. Venezuelan state television images showed Maduro looking up disconcertedly in the middle of a speech having heard a bang, before members of the country’s National Guard lined up in the parade area suddenly scattered.
No drones could be seen in the television broadcast, which showed bodyguards jumping in front of Maduro to protect him with flexible ballistic shields. The broadcast was quickly cut.
– Army base raid –
On August 6, 2017, an ex-officer and a lieutenant led 20 uniformed rebels on a weekend raid to grab weapons from an army base in the northwestern city of Valencia.
Maduro said on state television at the time that the attack saw a three- hour firefight in which two of the rebels died and eight were captured. The rest escaped with weapons.
The group was commanded by ex-National Guard captain, Juan Carlos Caguaripano. Just before the raid, Caguaripano posted a video online declaring it part of a “legitimate rebellion… to reject the murderous tyranny of Nicolas Maduro.” He had been discharged from the military in 2014 after multiple disciplinary offenses.
Maduro and the government branded the raid a “terrorist act” rather than an uprising within the military’s ranks.
– Rebel pilot –
On June 27, 2017, at the height of anti-government street protests that left 125 dead, helicopter pilot Oscar Perez and unidentified accomplices flew over Caracas in a stolen police helicopter and dropped four grenades on the Supreme Court before opening fire on the interior ministry. There were no casualties.
After the attack, Perez published several videos on social media demanding Maduro’s resignation. He said his goal was to “re-establish constitutional order.” He appeared alongside four, hooded, heavily-armed men.
Perez, a 36-year-old former elite police officer and actor, spent several months in hiding as Venezuela’s most-wanted man.
In December 2017, he claimed to be behind the theft of 26 rifles from a military armory. He posted videos reportedly recorded during the robbery in Laguneta de La Montana, in northern Miranda state, next to Caracas.
Then, on January 15 of this year, Perez was killed alongside six accomplices in an operation to capture him on the outskirts of Caracas.
Others were detained following a gunbattle lasting several hours. A bloodied Perez posted videos on Instagram during the gunbattle, saying he and his men wanted to surrender but were pinned down by snipers.