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VENEZUELA’S opposition played down the significance yesterday of an overnight helicopter-borne grenade attack on the Supreme Court, suggesting it could be a government hoax.
Opposition national assembly president Julio Borges insisted that he and the rest of the opposition were still analysing what had happened.
“There are people who say it was a government-staged hoax, others who say it was real,” he said.
“Whatever it was, it all points in the same direction — that the situation in Venezuela is unsustainable.”
President Nicolas Maduro had no hesitation in calling the incident — in which a police helicopter fired 15 shots and dropped four grenades on the court — a terrorist attack.
“It could have caused a tragedy with several dozen dead and injured,” he said.
Information Minister Ernesto Villegas said that the gun attack had been perpetrated against the Interior Ministry as a reception was taking place for 80 people celebrating national journalists’ day.
It then flew a short distance to the court, which was in session, launching four Israeli-made grenades of Colombian origin, two of them against national guardsmen protecting the building.
The twin attack took place as the president was speaking live on state TV and as the Supreme Court was handing down a series of rulings against the opposition.
Among the rulings was one lifting national assembly members’ immunity from prosecution, leaving open the possibility of deputies being called to account in the courts for frequent comments that government supporters see as incitement to violence.
One of the grenades launched at the court didn’t go off, helping avoid any loss of life.
Pictures of a blue police helicopter carrying an anti-government banner appeared on social media at about the same time as a video in which police pilot Oscar Perez, claiming to be part of a coalition of renegade security force members, urged a popular uprising.
The authorities said that they were still searching for the man.
Opposition deputies were involved in clashes with police on Monday evening when at least 68 supermarkets, pharmacies and liquor stores were looted and several government offices burned in the city of Maracay in Aragua state
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