Civil unrest continues to escalate in Venezuela, as news reports show a stolen police helicopter launching grenades at the country’s Supreme Court. President Nicolas Maduro has condemned the act as “terrorism” and said he will apply all necessary force to thwart this ongoing coup attempt. In a live broadcast aired to the Venezuelan public, President Maduro emphasized his stance to continue the efforts of his predecessor, Hugo Chávez to lift up the South American country using socialist policies. He further stated that the nation’s air defense has been alerted and engaged to “capture the helicopter, and those who did this armed terrorist attack against the institutions of the country…[the attack] could’ve caused a tragedy with several dead and injured,” as reported on ABC.net.au. Maduro went on to say, “I demand the MUD [opposition coalition] condemns this eminently coup-mongering attack.”
According to TheGuardian.com, two grenades were lobbed at the building. Thankfully, these did not explode but did cause a wave of panic among those who saw the weapons. Videos now circulating on various social media networks show a man piloting the helicopter while raising a banner that had “Liberty. Article 350” painted on it. This supposedly was in reference to a provision under the Venezuelan Constitution that empowers public citizens to declare themselves against any “regime that runs counter to democratic guarantees or undermines human rights.”
These unofficial videos, along with unverified eyewitness accounts, further suggest that there was a gun fire exchange between the helicopter and guards at the Supreme Court. The Venezuelan newspaper, El Nacional, has alleged that the man behind the helicopter attack was one Oscar Pérez, a 36-year old former captain of CICPC, the country’s national police agency. This, after a video surfaced of Pérez claiming to represent “a [nonpartisan] coalition of military employees, policemen and civilians” who seek peace against a “criminal government.” The video shows Pérez being flanked by four other people wearing masks and carrying what looks like semi-automatic rifles.
“We have two choices,” Pérez said in the video. “Be judged tomorrow by our conscience and the people or begin today to free ourselves from this corrupt government.”
A second video of Pérez has also been recently released, with him now wearing a purple ribbon tied around his left arm. Pérez points to this armband and calls Venezuelans to stand up for their basic human rights. Pérez has said that his allegiance is not with President Maduro but to “the truth and to Christ.”
Information minister Ernesto Villegas has stated that the armed forces are now looking to apprehend Pérez — who, Villegas claims, is secretly working under the instructions of the CIA and the U.S. Embassy in Caracas.
This new attack has many of President Maduro’s opponents claiming foul. They have accused the President of staging the entire event to rally more supporters to his cause. This elaborate ruse, designed and implemented by the socialist leader, will be used to justify a more violent crackdown on those seeking to block his plans to rewrite the constitution, they claim.
The chaos seen in Venezuela has spiraled out of control since April. Many Venezuelans say that President Maduro’s administration has steadily become more authoritarian, curtailing basic freedoms and generally plunging the once-prosperous oil-producing country into a state of desperation. In the three months of increasingly violent protests, around 70 businesses, including supermarkets, bakeries, and food shops, have been ransacked. Some 75 people have also died due to the escalations. (Related: Venezuela nears total collapse as government now unable to provide food, water, electricity and protection for citizens.)
President Maduro has been recorded in saying that this devolution of Venezuelan sensibilities could unleash a wave of refugees that would dwarf the current migrant crisis in the Mediterranean. As written on The Guardian, President Maduro has said, “Listen, President Donald Trump. You have the responsibility: stop the madness of the violent Venezuelan right wing.”
The head of the opposition-led national assembly, Julio Borges, has expressed his disgust towards this statement, stating: “It is the clearest acknowledgment that Venezuela lives [in] a dictatorship that intends to impose itself — against the democratic spirit — through a constituent assembly that will only deepen the social, political and humanitarian crisis that affects the country.”