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World

Venezuela's Maduro Survives Assassination Attempt, Officials Say

NOEL KING, HOST:

In Venezuela, President Nicolas Maduro survived an apparent assassination attempt this weekend. It reportedly involved drones packed with explosives. Now, Maduro's government is deeply unpopular because of hyperinflation and food shortages. Reporter John Otis has more.

JOHN OTIS, BYLINE: Maduro was addressing National Guard troops at an outdoor ceremony in Caracas on Saturday when the attack occurred. State television captured the moment.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

PRESIDENT NICOLAS MADURO: (Speaking Spanish).

(SOUNDBITE OF BANG)

OTIS: Maduro's speech is interrupted by an explosion. Then sirens sound, and hundreds of troops can be seen running for cover. Bodyguards hustled Maduro to safety, but seven Venezuelan troops were injured. Hours later, Maduro again took to the airwaves.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

MADURO: (Speaking Spanish).

OTIS: "This was a plot to kill me. Today, they tried to assassinate me," he said. On Sunday, Interior Minister Nestor Reverol provided more details.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

NESTOR REVEROL: (Speaking Spanish).

OTIS: He said the attack was carried out by two commercial drones of the type used for filmmaking. Each was armed with explosives. Reverol said that one of the drones malfunctioned and hit an apartment building. The other, he said, was disabled by government signal-jamming technology and crashed. The government blamed far-right Venezuelans and neighboring Colombia, which has been fiercely critical of Maduro's increasingly authoritarian regime. Colombia denied involvement. Meanwhile, two shadowy groups claiming to be made up of Venezuelan military men took credit for Saturday's attack. Harold Trinkunas, a Venezuela expert at Stanford University, says this is a more likely explanation. He points out that Venezuela's military counterintelligence has stymied several larger coup plots.

HAROLD TRINKUNAS: So these kind of small uprisings that's we've seen in Venezuela or these attacks that can be mounted by just a few individuals, you know, flying drones are the kinds of things that you'd expect to see in a country where it's very hard to organize any other kind of resistance to the government.

OTIS: So far, the government says six people have been arrested. For NPR News, I'm John Otis.

(SOUNDBITE OF GRAYSON ERHARD'S "UNSPECIFIED BIRD CALLS") Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.