CARACAS, Venezuela - Investigators hunting for assailants behind a failed attempt to assassinate President Nicolas Maduro with explosives-laden drones have raided hotels and seized vehicles while grilling six suspects for details of the plot.
Venezuela’s socialist government alleged Sunday that the detained suspects conspired with others in Miami and the capital of neighboring Colombia, though they offered no specific evidence. Opposition leaders criticized Maduro for broadly singling out his political opponents, and they warned that he might use the attack to further suppress his critics.
The attack came as Venezuela is reeling from an economic and humanitarian crisis and Maduro has grown increasingly isolated. Foreign nations, including the United States, are slapping economic sanctions on a growing list of high-ranking Venezuelan officials and decrying his government as an autocratic regime.
Maduro and his allies called the attack direct proof that an international plot to overthrow his socialist administration exists, while also saying that the military’s response shows he still has the loyalty of Venezuela’s soldiers.
But analysts said the images broadcast live on television when the attack struck during a Maduro speech Saturday evening made him appear vulnerable.
“Seeing trained soldiers fleeing in apparent panic and disarray before an explosion strongly contrasts with the idea of monolithic control and loyalty of security forces that Maduro prides himself on,” the New York-based Torino Capital investment firm said.
Defense Minister Vladimir Padrino Lopez, appearing on state television Sunday, said the attackers were trying to wipe out Venezuela’s entire top leadership along with Maduro.
Interior Minister Nestor Reverol said two drones, each packed with a kilogram (2.2 pounds) of C-4 plastic explosive, were flown toward Maduro, his wife and other top leaders as the president spoke to hundreds of troops during an event celebrating the 81st anniversary of the National Guard.