Approximately 100 pro-Nicolas Maduro supporters stormed Venezuela's National Assembly building on Wednesday, July 5, during a session to mark the country's Independence Day. Protesters reportedly assaulted several legislators using sticks and pipes. Analysts believe that military police, who were guarding the building at the time of the incident, had been convinced to stand aside as demonstrators laid siege to the building.
According to National Assembly speaker, Julio Borges, 350 people were trapped in the Assembly building for several hours, and at least five lawmakers were injured. Venezuelan media sources blamed the incident on militias or colectivos, who were reportedly encouraged by Vice President Tareck El Aissami to "show support for the President."
The government has ordered an investigation into the incident. Counter protests are possible in the coming days and weeks, and violence is highly likely.
Violent and often deadly clashes between protesters and security forces continue to occur on a near-daily basis in Venezuela, most notably in the capital city of Caracas. At least 75 people have been killed and 1500 more injured due to social unrest since the beginning of the current wave of anti-government protests began in early April of this year. The vast majority of the victims have been killed by security forces, who have repeatedly been accused of excessive use of force, and the situation continues to escalate with no resolution in sight. Pro-government militias are also reportedly behind some of the violence, including another attempted attack against the AN building in Caracas on June 24.
The protests regularly result in major transportation disruptions in the capital, with roads, highways, and the metro system closed by police and/or blocked by protesters. The government has taken to offering military officers an increasing number of government positions to solidify the armed forces traditional support of the Socialist Party (PSUV) regime.Additionally, opposition within President Nicolás Maduro's administration has begun to grow. The Supreme Court is currently deliberating whether to remove state prosecutor Luisa Ortega after she voiced public opposition to the administration, with a decision expected in the coming days.
These developments follow on a long series of progressively worsening crises affecting the restive country in recent months and years, including a breakdown of the democratic system, major shortages of gasoline, medications, food, and other basic necessities, an alarming spike in rates of violent crime, massive inflation and economic recession, and a resurgence of disease. Protesters regularly demand early elections, the resignation of President Nicolás Maduro, the release of political prisoners, and humanitarian assistance from the government.
Individuals in Caracas and other Venezuelan cities are advised to limit travel, to strictly avoid all protests and roadblocks due to the likelihood of violence, and to closely monitor the situation.