Venezuela president alleges two opposition leaders linked to drone attack

Nicolas Maduro made the comments in a nationally televised broadcast.


It comes after two drones armed with explosives detonated near the president on Saturday (Ariana Cubillos/AP)
It comes after two drones armed with explosives detonated near the president on Saturday (Ariana Cubillos/AP)

President Nicolas Maduro has accused two opposition legislators of having roles in the drone attack that Venezuelan officials have called an assassination attempt on the leader.

The head of Venezuela’s pro-government constitutional assembly said he would have the body take up a proposal on Wednesday to strip the politicians of their immunity from prosecution.

During a national television broadcast on Tuesday night, Mr Maduro said statements from some of the six suspects already arrested in the weekend attack pointed to key financiers and others, including Julio Borges, one of the country’s most prominent opposition leaders who is a poltician but is living in exile in Colombia.

“Several of the declarations indicated Julio Borges. The investigations point to him,” Mr Maduro said, though he provided no details on Mr Borges’ alleged role.

Mr Borges did not immediately comment on Mr Maduro’s accusation.

The president also named opposition politician Juan Requesens, who was seen in a video widely circulating on social media being arrested by Venezuela’s political police force.

Critics of Mr Maduro’s socialist government had said immediately after the attack that they feared the unpopular leader would use the incident as an excuse to round up opposition politicians as he seeks to dampen spreading discontent over Venezuela’s devastating economic collapse.

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Nicolas Maduro delivers his speech as his wife Cilia Flores winces and looks up after being startled by and explosion in Caracas on Saturday (Venezolana de Television via AP)

In the attack, two drones armed with explosives detonated near Mr Maduro as he spoke outdoors during a military celebration on Saturday evening.

Images on live television showed Mr Maduro and his wife looking up at the sky at one blast and then hundreds of soldiers scrambling.

Prosecutors have arrested six people who face charges of treason, attempted murder and terrorism.

As elected politicians, Mr Borges and Mr Requesens enjoy immunity from prosecution under Venezuelan law.

But Diosdado Cabello, the powerful socialist party leader and president of the National Constitutional Assembly, said in a tweet that he planned to introduce legislation stripping politicians of this protection.

The events come as Venezuela’s economy continues to haemorrhage and thousands flee to neighbouring nations seeking food and medical care.

Mr Maduro has grown increasingly isolated, with the United States and other foreign powers slapping economic sanctions on a growing list of high-ranking Venezuelan officials and criticising his government as an autocratic regime.

The International Monetary Fund projects inflation could top one million percent by year’s end.

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Bolivarian National guards occupy the Bolivar Avenue where the government said a drone detonated near Nicolas Maduro (Fernando Llano/AP)

Mr Maduro spoke for two hours from the Miraflores Presidential Palace in a presentation using polished videos showing suspects and images of the drones exploding.

One video included a purported confession by one handcuffed suspect, whose face was blurred out.

Mr Maduro also held up military hats worn by soldiers with holes in them from debris the explosion. Several soldiers seated in the audience had white bandages on their heads, apparently injured in the assassination attempt.

The president also displayed wanted posters with names and pictures of other suspects who he said are living in the United States and Colombia.

Mr Maduro said he would provide evidence to officials in both countries and ask for their cooperation handing over suspects who helped orchestrate and finance the attack.

“I want to explain to the government of the United States and the government of Colombia in detail all the evidence that leads us to accomplices and direct responsible living in the state of Florida,” Mr Maduro said.

“I trust in the good faith of Donald Trump.”

Mr Borges rejected the accusations on Twitter, saying Mr Maduro blames him for Venezuela’s economic crisis, from cash shortages to the hyperinflation. “You’re not fooling anybody,” he said.

He said the incident was a “farce” staged to justify the persecution of opponents.

Press Association

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