By Alexandra Ulmer
CARACAS (Reuters) – Drones loaded with explosives detonated close to a military event where Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro was giving a speech on Saturday, but he and top government officials alongside him escaped unharmed from what Information Minister Jorge Rodriguez called an “attack” targeting the leftist leader. Seven National Guard soldiers were injured, Rodriguez added.
A broadcast by Maduro was cut short during an outdoor speech at a military event in Caracas and soldiers were seen running before the televised transmission was cut off.
While Maduro was speaking about Venezuela’s economy, the audio suddenly went and he and others on the podium looked up, startled. The camera then panned to scores of soldiers who started running, before the transmission was cut.
Venezuela is living under the fifth year of a severe economic crisis that has sparked malnutrition, hyperinflation and mass emigration.
OPEC member Venezuela’s once-thriving socialist economy has
collapsed since the 2014 fall of oil prices.
Maduro, a former bus driver, won a new six-year term in May but his main rivals disavowed the election and alleged massive irregularities.
Maduro replaced former President Hugo Chavez after his death from cancer in 2013. The self-described “son” of Chavez, Maduro says he is battling an “imperialist” plot to destroy socialism and take over Venezuela’s oil. Opponents accuse him of authoritarianism, saying he has destroyed a once-wealthy economy and ruthlessly crushed dissent.
Last year, rogue police officer Oscar Perez hijacked a helicopter and fired at government buildings in what he said was an action against a dictator. Perez was hunted down and killed by Venezuelan forces.
(Reporting by Alexandra Ulmer; Writing by Alistair Bell; Editing by Daniel Wallis and Sandra Maler)