Venezuelan officials are searching for people responsible for an attack on President Nicolas Maduro.
Drone aircraft carrying explosives flew close to Maduro. He was giving a speech in Caracas on Saturday. The president was unhurt in the incident.
The Associated Press (AP) says investigators have raided several hotels and seized vehicles. At least six suspects were detained for questioning.
Venezuela’s government says the attackers had plotted to kill Maduro. It said the suspects organized the plot with others in the United States and Colombia. The government has yet to provide detailed evidence to support the claims.
Venezuelan opposition leaders criticized Maduro for blaming the political opposition. They warned that he might use the attack to silence his critics.
Venezuela and the world
The attack came as Venezuela is suffering from an economic and humanitarian crisis, and Maduro finds himself increasingly alone.
The United States and other countries are taking economic actions against a growing list of high-level Venezuelan officials. They are also denouncing his government as oppressive.
Maduro and his allies said the attack was direct proof of an international plot to destroy his government. He also said the military’s reaction to the attack shows he still has the support of Venezuelan soldiers.
But observers said the images broadcast on television when the attack struck made him appear at risk.
Seeing soldiers fleeing in apparent panic does not show the “control and loyalty of security forces,” noted Torino Capital, a New York-based investment business.
Defense Minister Vladimir Padrino Lopez said on Sunday that the attackers were trying to kill every member of Venezuela’s top leadership.
Details of the attack
Interior Minister Nestor Reverol said the two drones were each carrying a kilogram of C-4 plastic explosive. They were flown toward Maduro, his wife and other officials. At the time, he was speaking to troops at an event celebrating the 81st anniversary of the National Guard.
One of the drones was supposed to explode above Maduro and the other was to explode directly in front of him, Reverol said.
The military was able to stop one of the drones electronically. The second crashed into an apartment building nearby, Reverol said.
He added that two of those arrested had earlier problems with the government. He said one took part in 2014 anti-governments protests that took place as Venezuela’s economic crisis worsened. The other was wanted by police for an attack on a military area, the interior minister said.
Two people who live in nearby buildings said they saw a drone flying over a street on Saturday and then heard an explosion.
One witness showed the AP cellphone video of a drone crashing into a building. He said the drone fell to the ground and exploded, causing a fire.
Maduro’s reaction to the attack
In a message to the nation Saturday night, an angry Maduro blamed the attack on the “far right.” He called on U.S. President Donald Trump to hold the “terrorist group” responsible.
John Bolton is Trump’s national security adviser. On Sunday, Bolton, said: “If the government of Venezuela has hard information that they want to present to us that would show a…violation of U.S. criminal law, we’ll take a serious look at it.”
The Broad Front, a coalition of opposition groups in Venezuela, said the government was blaming people without proof.
The group said in a statement that the government was not interested in getting to the truth, but wanted to use the situation for political gain.
Claim of responsibility
A little-known group calling itself Soldiers in T-shirts claimed responsibility for the attack. The message could not be independently confirmed, however.
Maduro said the attack left him sure of the military’s support. He said he will continue with the socialist revolution begun by former president Hugo Chavez.
“Venezuela will continue on the democratic, independent and socialist path,” Maduro said.
Torino Capital said that it believes Maduro will stay in power for many years. But it added that economic problems make it important to continue to watch the situation in Venezuela very closely.
I’m Susan Shand.
Scott Smith and Christine Armario reported this story for the Associated Press. Susan Shand adapted their story for VOA Learning English. The editor was George Grow.
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Words in This Story
drone– n.a type of small aircraft that flies without a pilot
cellphone – n.a wireless telephone
panic– n.a sudden, overpowering fright