On Sunday, during a speech at a ceremony commemorating the 81st anniversary of the National Guard in Venezuela’s capital Caracas, President Nicolás Maduro attacked by exploding drones in what the government said was an assassination attempt.

Two drones packed with explosives targeted Maduro. The attack was the first such known use of drones against a head of state. Government authorities said that “six terrorists and hit men” had been arrested, and that one had attacked the government before.


In a live stream on television, the camera showed how security officials rushed to surround Maduro and the first lady with some sort of large black shields. After a second blast, hundreds of national guardsmen, standing in formation for the parade suddenly scrambling in a panic to find safety.


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Carlos Julio Rojas, an activist who was attending a small protest nearby, said he saw a stampede. “I hear screams and I saw National Guardsmen with long guns on the streets, running like crazy. They even pushed an old lady who was trying to run,” he told the New York Times. “Imagine this: Our military are supposed to protect us, and then you see them running like that.”

On the same evening, President Madura appeared unshaken on television. He declared the assassination attempt a failure and accused the “far right,” working with conspirators in Miami and Bogota, including Colombian President Juan Manuel Santos. “All the investigations point to Bogotá,” he said, blaming the center-right president who has condemned him repeatedly for human rights abuses. Maduro also accuses the U.S. of supporting his opponents, called on President Donald Trump to hold the “terrorist group” accountable.

The Trump administration imposed new economic sanctions on Venezuela immediately after the election in an effort to stop Maduro from selling off government debt to enrich himself.

The Colombian government denied any involvement. John Bolton, Trump’s national security adviser, said Sunday he would like to see solid evidence to support Maduro’s claims. “If the government of Venezuela has hard information that they want to present to us that would show a potential violation of U.S. criminal law, we’ll take a serious look at it,” Bolton said.

Venezuela’s economy has been ravaged, leaving much of the population desperate for food and driving hundreds of thousands to leave the country.

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