Supporters rally behind Maduro after thwarted attack
CARACAS, Venezuela (AP):
Pro-government factions mobilised thousands of Venezuelans dressed in red - the color of the ruling socialist party - on to the streets of the capital on Monday in a bid to show the country remains united around President Nicolas Maduro after what the government described as a thwarted assassination attempt.
"This river of red," Foreign Minister Jorge Arreaza declared as the crowd waved flags and carried posters with Maduro's image. "It could have been another red running through these streets."
Authorities say they have now captured all those behind the attack using two drones armed with explosives. The names of those detained have not been released, but chief prosecutor Tarek William Saab said the six people arrested could face charges including treason, attempted homicide and terrorism.
"They need to pay the penalty Venezuela's law calls for," Diosdado Cabello, a high-ranking socialist party leader, told the crowd of thousands. "There won't be any more forgiveness."
Public employees are required to attend such pro-government rallies to ensure a strong show of support. Yet, even as Venezuelan leaders sought to project a nation united behind Maduro, analysts warned the incident makes the already unpopular leader even more vulnerable as he struggles to reverse a crippling humanitarian and economic crisis considered worse than the Great Depression.
Diego Moya-Ocampos, a Venezuelan analyst with the London-based consulting firm IHS Markit, warned that Saturday's failed attack could be a sign that low-level insurgent groups that have in the past expressed their frustration by throwing rocks and Molotov cocktails at the National Guard during protests are now escalating to a more violent approach.
"This is a manifestation of institutions not being able to channel the political, economic and social crisis that Venezuela is going through," he said.
Maduro was addressing hundreds of uniformed soldiers Saturday in a speech celebrating the 81st anniversary of the National Guard when an explosion pierced the air. Authorities say two drones, each packed with a kilogramme (2.2 pounds) of C-4 plastic explosive, were aimed at the stage where Maduro, his wife and a slate of the nation's highest-ranking government leaders were gathered.