Govt supporters storm Venezuela congress, injuring lawmakers

Pro-government militias wielding wooden sticks and metal bars stormed congress on Wednesday and began attacking opposition lawmakers during a special session coinciding with Venezuela’s independence day.

Four lawmakers were injured. One of them, Americo de Grazia, had to be taken in a stretcher to an ambulance suffered by convulsions, told a fellow congressman.


“This doesn’t hurt as much as watching how every day how we lose a little bit more of our country, ” Armando Arias said from inside an ambulance as he was being treated for head wounds that spilled blood across his clothes.

The attack, in plain view of national guardsmen assigned to protect the legislature, goes amid three months of often-violent confrontations between security forces and protesters who accuse the government of trying to establish a dictatorship by incarcerating foes, pushing aside the opposition-controlled legislature and rewriting the constitution to avoid fair elections.

Tensions were already high after Vice President Tareck El Aissami made an unannounced morning visit to the neoclassical parliament, accompanied by top government and military officials, for an event celebrating independence day.

Standing next to a display case holding Venezuela’s declaration of freedom from Spain, he said global powers are once again trying to subjugate Venezuela.

“We still haven’t finished definitively violating the chains of the empire, ” El Aissami said, adding that President Nicolas Maduro’s plans to rewrite the constitution a move the opposition sees as a power-grab offers Venezuela the best chance to be truly independent.

After he left, dozens of government supporters set up a picket outside the building, heckling lawmakers with menacing chants and eventually invading the legislature themselves.

Despite the violence, lawmakers approved a scheme by the opposition to hold a symbolic referendum on July 16 that would give voters the chance to repudiate Maduro’s plans to draft a new political charter.

Later Maduro condemned the violence, calling for a full investigation during a speech while attending a military parade.


The clash followed Tuesday’s appearance of a 5-minute video posted by a former police inspector who were reportedly stole a helicopter and fired on two government builds last week.

Oscar Perez, repeating a call for uprising among the security forces, said that he was in Caracas after abandoning the helicopter along the Caribbean coast and was ready for the “second phase” of his campaign to free his homeland from what he called the corrupt rule of President Nicolas Maduro and his “assassin” allies.

Perez dedicated no other details but pledged to join youth who have been protesting on the street the past three months against Maduro.

“Stop talking. Get on the street. Take action. Fight, ” he said in the video, sitting before a Venezuelan flag and with what looks like an assault rifle by his side. He also denounced Maduro’s plan to rewrite the constitution.

“If this constitutional assembly goes through, Venezuela will cease to exist because we’ll have given away the country to the Cubans, ” he said.

The bold though largely harmless June 27 attack shocked Venezuelans who had grown accustomed to almost-daily conflicts since April between often-violent youth protesters and security forces that have left more than 90 people dead and hundreds injured.

Perez apparently piloted the stolen police helicopter that sprayed 15 bullets towards the Interior Ministry and fell at the least two grenades over the supreme court building.

While Maduro claimed Perez had stolen the helicopter on a U.S.-backed mission to deposed him from power, many in the opponent wanted to know whether the incident was a staged by the government to distract attention from the president’s increasingly authoritarian rule.

Adding to the intrigue is Perez’s colorful past.

In 2015, he produced and starred in a film called “Suspended Death, ” and several photos demonstrate him in tiredness, scuba diving while toting an attack rifle, skydiving and standing in action poses with a German shepherd by his side. In his political debut, he read a manifesto in which he claimed to be part of a group of disgruntled members of Venezuela’s security forces determined to save the country’s democracy.

Maduro told a massive loss of life was avoided because Venezuela’s air defense system was speedily activated. But Perez said in the video that the strike produced no casualties because he had taken care to avoid them.

Neither of the buildings he attacked suffered damage. The helicopter he stole was seen 24 hours later, abandoned in a verdant valley near the Caribbean coastline outside Caracas.

“They are going to have to put the whole nation in jail to stop our mission, ” he said in the new video, which had been considered online some 135,000 hours within a few hours after its release.

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