Rogue police in helicopter attack Venezuelan Supreme Court

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New York: A rogue faction of the Venezuelan police attacked the country’s Supreme Court in Caracas on Tuesday, dropping grenades from a helicopter, government officials said.

It was a rare uprising by government personnel in a country that has been on edge from mass protests and economic crises.



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Police helicopter bombs Venezuela’s Supreme Court

A rogue arm of Venezuela’s police dropped grenades and fired shots at government buildings in Caracas, as the country’s political crisis deepens.

A video shot from a window and posted on Twitter shows a helicopter swooping in a circle around a building as explosions are heard.

Another video posted on social media Tuesday showed a uniformed man identified as Oscar Perez, flanked by masked, heavily armed men in uniforms, taking responsibility for the operation. The speaker said he represented a coalition of military, police and civilian personnel who opposed what he called “this transitional, criminal government”.

“We are nationalists, patriots and institutionalists,” the man said. “This fight is not against other state security forces. It is against the impunity imposed by this government. It is against tyranny. It is against the death of young people fighting for their legitimate rights.”

It was not clear if the assault resulted in any casualties or where the attackers were Tuesday night. Despite Perez’s claims, it could not be determined how much support, if any, the attackers had. In any case, they did not come close to overthrowing the government.

In pictures of the helicopter attack that circulated online, a man who looks like Perez appeared to be piloting the aircraft as a second man, in a balaclava, held a sign that said: “Art. 350, Libertad.”

Experts said it was a reference to Article 350 of the Venezuelan Constitution, which encourages people to “disown any regime, legislation or authority that runs counter to democratic principles and guarantees, or that undermines human rights”.

Elsewhere in Caracas, opposition members of the National Assembly said they were being besieged by armed government supporters.

A rogue faction of the Venezuelan police attacked the country’s Supreme Court in Caracas on Tuesday, dropping grenades from a helicopter, government officials said.

Ernesto Villegas, Venezuela’s minister of communications and information, said on national television that President Nicolas Maduro had been briefed on “an act of violence” launched from a helicopter that belongs to a law enforcement agency.

Villegas characterised the event as an “uprising against the republic, the constitution”.

Maduro condemned the attack in a televised address, calling it part of a “coup plot”.

He said the assailants had launched grenades, including one that did not explode, while a “social event” was taking place in the court complex. The gunmen fired from the helicopter into offices and then flew over the building, he said.

“They could have left several dozen deaths,” Maduro said.

The president added that he had “activated the entire national armed forces to defend people’s right to serenity”.

Maduro said: “Sooner or later we will capture the helicopter and those who have committed this armed attack.” His remark suggested the assailants were at large and in control of the aircraft.

Venezuela has been shaken for weeks by protests against the government, some of which have turned violent. It has resorted to increasingly heavy-handed tactics, including torture, to beat back demonstrations, according to accounts by detained demonstrators and human rights activists. More than 70 people have died.

The country has the world’s largest oil reserves but is facing the worst economic crisis in its history, with acute shortages of food and medicine. The International Monetary Fund is forecasting more than 1600 per cent inflation this year.

The Supreme Court, the target of Tuesday’s attack, has become a focus for the rallies, chiefly because its bench is stacked with allies of the president who are seen as doing his bidding.

On Tuesday, the court appeared to be chipping away at the power of the attorney-general’s office, transferring many of its investigative abilities to Tarek Saab, a high-ranking official in Maduro’s party. The move was seen as curbing the authority of Luisa Ortega, the attorney-general, who has become famous during protests for openly opposing the president, the highest-ranking official to do so.

The protests themselves were set off by another ruling by the court that essentially dissolved the opposition-controlled National Assembly in March and transferred lawmaking power to the justices themselves. Maduro eventually ordered the court to reverse much of its ruling after an outcry both outside and within Venezuela, including a public rebuke by Ortega.

New York Times, DPA



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