VENEZUELAN President Nicolas Maduro dodged an apparent assassination attempt when drones armed with explosives detonated while he was delivering a speech to hundreds of soldiers being broadcast live on television, officials said.
Caught by surprise mid-speech, Maduro and his wife, Cilia Flores, looked up at the sky and winced Saturday after hearing the sound of an explosion pierce the air, AP news reported.
“This was an attempt to kill me,” he said later in an impassioned retelling of the events. “Today they attempted to assassinate me.”
Information Minister Jorge Rodriguez said the incident took place shortly after 5:30 p.m. as Maduro was celebrating the National Guard’s 81st anniversary. The visibly shaken head of state said he saw a “flying device” that exploded before his eyes.
He thought it might be a pyrotechnics display in honour of the event.
Within seconds, Maduro said he heard a second explosion and pandemonium ensued. Bodyguards escorted Maduro out of the event and television footage showed uniformed soldiers standing in formation quickly scattering from the scene.
He said the “far right” working in coordination with detractors in Bogota and Miami, including Colombian President Juan Manuel Santos, were responsible. Some of the “material authors” of the apparent attack have been detained.
“The investigation will get to the bottom of this,” he said. “No matter who falls.”
Venezuela’s government routinely accuses opposition activists of plotting to attack and overthrow Maduro, a deeply unpopular leader who was recently elected to a new term in office in a vote decried by dozens of nations. Maduro has steadily moved to concentrate power as the nation reels from a crippling economic crisis.