A stolen police helicopter piloted by a police officer opened fire at and dropped grenades on the Supreme Court and Interior Ministry buildings in the capital Caracas on Tuesday, June 28, in what President Nicolas Maduro has classified as both a terrorist attack and attempted coup d’état. The incident did not result in any casualties and none of the grenades exploded. The officer declared himself “in rebellion” against Maduro and the incident may be representative of growing dissent within sectors of the government (most vocally by the attorney general) and security forces amid nearly three months of near-daily anti-government protests.
On the same day, presumably pro-government assailants carried out an attack on the National Assembly (AN), which is controlled by the opposition coalition MUD, although it has been effectively stripped of all real powers by the government. At least two parliamentarians were injured in the assault, which involved fireworks rockets.
Some members of the opposition have accused the government of staging the helicopter attack to justify an increasingly violent crackdown on dissent. Earlier in the day, Maduro threatened that the government, as well as government supporters, would “take up arms” to quell the unrest and “protect the revolution,” which an opposition political opponent called a “declaration of war” against Venezuelans.
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.
Venezuela has been devastated by 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 are demanding 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.