Venezuela’s Nicolás Maduro Targeted In Drone Assassination Attempt, Blames Colombia

Maduro hears drone explosion during military speech.
Venezolana de Television / AP Images

Venezuela’s president, Nicolás Maduro, has survived an apparent assassination attempt, reports The Guardian. The attempt took place on Saturday while he was giving a live-broadcast speech to hundreds of soldiers.

Maduro and his wife, Cilia Flores, were caught by surprise after hearing the sound of an explosion in the sky. While it is unclear as to whether the armed drones detonated early or were shot down, the president was unharmed. However, seven people were left injured.

“This was an attempt to kill me,” he reported after the event. “Today they attempted to assassinate me.”

Initial investigations revealed potential links to the explosions in Colombia and the U.S. state of Florida, where many Venezuelan exiles live.

Two hours later, the president gave a live-television address, claiming that those behind the attack had been caught.

“I am alive and victorious. Everything points to the Venezuelan ultra-right in alliance with the Colombian ultra-right, and that the name of [Colombian president] Juan Manuel Santos is behind this attack,” The Guardian reported.

Although the Colombian and Venezuelan presidents had been at odds over differences in their political and economical stances and Santos had taken to calling Maduro a dictator, a spokesperson for Santos denied the allegations, saying that the Colombian president was focused on his granddaughter’s baptism and not on “bringing down foreign governments.”

Another Colombian official also discounted Maduro’s claims that Santos was behind the attack, calling them baseless.

No one has claimed responsibility for the attack, but one group, Franelas Soldiers, posted a message on Twitter that appeared to point to their involvement.

At the end of the message they write, “We have shown [the government] is vulnerable. [The attack] wasn’t achieved today but it is just a matter of time [until it is].”

Firefighters at the scene of the explosions told a different story. They believed that the explosion came from a gas tank in a nearby apartment building and was not, in fact, an attempt on the president’s life, as per the Associated Press.

Similar suspicions that the explosion was not an attack on Maduro were raised by Venezuela experts on social media.

Phil Gunson, a consultant with the non-profit Crisis Group, tweeted about the event, reports the Associated Press.

“The official ‘investigation’ of today’s alleged assassination attempt against president Maduro takes the usual course: begin with the conclusions and work backwards. In a country where 98% of crime goes unpunished, government sleuths resolve this kind of case in a matter of hours.”

The military address was a routine meeting Maduro holds with Venezuelan soldiers, whose loyalty he relies on as the nation battles food and medicine shortages in addition to crippling hyperinflation.

Maduro was confident that the military would protect him during the explosions.

“That drone came after me,” he said. “But there was a shield of love that always protects us. I’m sure I’ll live for many more years,” reported the Associated Press.