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Maduro vows to fend off ‘coup’ after attacks

29 June 2017 11:18

 

Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro has vowed to fend off a “coup attempt,” shortly after a grenade and gunfire attack on key government buildings in the country’s capital.

Branding the raids as “terrorist” attacks, Maduro said on Wednesday that the incidents were part of an “escalation” by right-wing “coup” plotters against the ruling Socialist party.

The Venezuelan president also ordered security stepped up by putting the army on alert following the attacks in Caracas, where shots were fired from a helicopter at the Interior Ministry building and grenades were dropped on the Supreme Court building on Tuesday.

“I have activated the entire armed forces to defend the peace,” Maduro said in remarks broadcast from the presidential palace.

No casualties were reported in the Tuesday incidents.

In this still image, taken from a video via Reuters, an apparently rogue Venezuelan police pilot identifying himself as Oscar Perez reads a statement from an undisclosed location on June 27, 2017.

The Venezuelan government blamed the attack on Oscar Perez, a 36-year-old police pilot, who had called for the resignation of Maduro and early elections in a video published on social media.

“We are a coalition of military, police, and civilian public servants… opposed to this transitional, criminal government,” Perez had said in the video footage.

Some opposition leaders in Venezuela, however, suspect the raid might have been a government set-up to justify repression amid a worsening economic and political crisis. Venezuela has seen three attempted military coups since 1992.

The oil-rich country has been the scene of intense anti-government protests for more than two months. Clashes between security forces and anti-government protesters have left over 75 people dead and 1,300 wounded.

Anti-government protesters clash with the police in Caracas, June 26, 2017. (Photo by AFP)

The unrest was aggravated in early April after Venezuela’s Supreme Court decided to annul the powers of the opposition-controlled parliament. The move was regarded as a violation of the country’s constitution. The decision was later revoked, but the protests have only continued.

The opposition, which blames Maduro for the county’s severe hyperinflation and widespread shortages of basic supplies, has been calling for an early presidential election meant to oust the president.

The Caracas government says the protests are incited by the Unites Stated to remove Maduro from power and has accused the opposition of hiring armed gangs. The opposition, too, has claimed the government has recruited criminal gangs to intimidate protesters.

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