Venezuelan President Targeted by Drone Attack, Officials Say

CARACAS, Venezuela — Explosions brought about pandemonium at a army ceremony the place President Nicolás Maduro of Venezuela was talking on Saturday, making the primary woman flinch and sending National Guard troops scurrying in what administration officers referred to as an assassination try utilizing drones.

The president, who was unhurt, later advised the nation, “To all of our friends in the world, I am fine, I am alive.” He blamed right-wing components and mentioned, “The Bolivarian revolution keeps its path.”

Mr. Maduro has presided over a spectacular financial collapse in Venezuela, the place inflation is predicted to achieve a million % this yr regardless of the nation’s massive oil reserves. Economists blame a long time of mismanagement underneath Mr. Maduro and his predecessor, Hugo Chávez.

The drone assault was the most recent in a string of makes an attempt in recent times to finish the tenure of Mr. Maduro, who was declared the victor of an election in May that carries his time period till 2025. No earlier assaults have been as daring, although, and this appeared to have been the primary assassination try on a head of state utilizing drones.

It was an assault that appeared scripted for Hollywood: Off-camera explosions. Low-flying drones exploding midair. The president and first woman ducking for canopy. Thousands of troopers in a army parade all of a sudden fleeing in a stampede that was broadcast to the nation, reside.

Jorge Rodríguez, the communications minister, mentioned the attackers had used “several flying devices” that have been detonated close to the place the president was standing.

The assault got here shortly after 5:30 p.m. throughout an occasion the federal government mentioned was meant to have a good time the 81st anniversary of the nation’s National Guard.

During the president’s speech, which was broadcast reside on state tv, the digicam started to shake. Mr. Maduro then seemed into the air as his spouse, Cilia Flores, flinched and reached for an additional official to brace herself.

The video feed was interrupted, however Mr. Maduro could possibly be heard persevering with to speak as voices within the background yelled for individuals to flee.

The video feed then confirmed figures wearing black breaking by way of a barrier from the sidelines of a large road the place a whole lot of uniformed guardsmen have been arrayed in formation. The figures in black ran towards the guardsmen, who abruptly fled in panic.

The transmission then minimize off.

Mr. Maduro, addressing the nation simply earlier than 9 p.m., blamed right-wing components in Venezuela and Colombia for the assault, and mentioned that President Juan Manuel Santos of Colombia was additionally accountable.

“All the investigations point to Bogotá,” he mentioned, accompanied by his ministers and army excessive command. “They have tried to kill me today.” Mr. Maduro additionally advised involvement by unidentified Americans.

Carlos Julio Rojas, an activist in Caracas, mentioned that he had simply arrived to protest water shortages when he felt the primary explosion.

“We thought it was a bolt of lightning, but with the second explosion we could see the wall vibrating,” he mentioned. “We saw the soldiers running.”

Mr. Rojas mentioned neighbors advised him they’d seen drones method and explode midair.

Figures aligned with the opposition condemned the assault.

“This is not the way out of the Venezuelan crisis,” mentioned Nicmer Evans, a political scientist who has campaigned with the opposition. “No one wants the exit to be the death of someone to resolve this country’s situation.”

It was not the primary time that the federal government, which has presided over years of meals shortages and guidelines with an authoritarian fist, has suffered a spectacular assault in its capital.

In June 2017, Óscar Pérez, a rogue police officer, commandeered a helicopter and used it in a brazen noon assault to drop grenades on the Supreme Court constructing and to fireplace on the Interior Ministry.

Mr. Pérez took to Instagram to name for others to hitch his trigger and wage assaults towards army bases, however he was killed by the government throughout an assault in January.

In one other assault final yr, a gaggle of troopers struck a military barracks west of Caracas. Like Mr. Pérez, they launched movies calling for others to hitch their trigger, however no insurrection materialized.

And in 2016, Mr. Maduro himself was attacked by a mob who chased him down the road banging pots and pans and screaming that they’d no meals.

Despite widespread discontent, Mr. Maduro continues to carry energy. His hottest rivals have been banned from working in elections this spring, and opposition events boycotted and mentioned the vote was rigged.

Analysts mentioned Saturday that whereas the assault is perhaps used to drum up assist for the president, it was a deep embarrassment for Mr. Maduro.

It will increase his rhetoric and provides some substance to his conspiracy theories,” mentioned David Smilde, an analyst on the Washington Office on Latin America, a human rights group. “But the optics of this weaken him. The images of him being interrupted in mid-speech and the armed forces running away make him look vulnerable.”

Mr. Smilde dismissed theories on Saturday that the federal government had organized a failed assault to construct assist for Mr. Maduro. He mentioned the assault appeared “amateurish.”

A United States State Department official mentioned its Caracas embassy had issued a safety alert. Leaders pleasant to Mr. Maduro provided their assist and solid suspicion on international powers.

“We energetically repudiate this new aggression and cowardly attack,” mentioned Evo Morales, Bolivia’s president and a fellow leftist. “After failed attempts to topple him democratically, economically, politically and militarily, now the empire and its servants try to take his life.”

That wasn’t the response of some residents who stood close by as officers fled.

“Running like rats,” mentioned a girl who filmed a video of the troopers and officers fleeing on Saturday. “All of those fancy cars of the plugged-in elites trying to get away at the same time.”


An earlier model of a photograph caption with this text misspelled the title of the Venezuelan president’s spouse. She is Cilia Flores, not Celia.

Ana Vanessa Herrero reported from Caracas, and Nicholas Casey from Popayán, Colombia.

A model of this text seems in print on , on Page A9 of the New York version with the headline: Drones Explode in Attack on Venezuelan President, Who Was Unharmed. Order Reprints | Today’s Paper | Subscribe

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