“We share the pain of the Venezuelan people,” said President Macri yesterday afternoon in a joint conference with Chile’s President Michelle Bachelet at the Casa de la Moneda in Santiago. Both leaders acknowledged the wave of protests against Venezuela’s President Nicolás Maduro that began in April and have since left 76 people dead. But they could not anticipate the incidents that exploded in Caracas last night.
Macri and Bachelet initially convened to bolster cooperation between Argentina and Chile in mining, environmental regulation, and infrastructure. At the hour of their press conference, across the continent, Venezuelan President Maduro publicly warned that his supporters would take military action if opponents were to overthrow his socialist government. “What cannot be done with votes,” he said, “we will do with arms.” Military planes accompanied his words, as they flew over Caracas to practice for their parade on July 5, Day of the Bolivarian National Armed Forces (FANB).
Last October, Maduro ordered the suspension of a referendum that would have recalled his election results after criminal courts upheld claims of electoral fraud. Since then, protestors repeatedly contend that Maduro undermines democracy. Tensions took a convulsive turn yesterday during an hours-long standoff between Chavistas, who support Maduro, and opposition forces.
At 6:00pm, Chavistas besieged the opposition-led National Assembly, held its deputies hostage, and threw explosives into the parliament courtyard. Forty minutes later, Oscar Pérez, a member of the Body of Scientific, Penal and Criminal Investigation (CICPC), seized a helicopter, fired shots at the Interior Ministry and threw grenades at the Supreme Court.
Maduro deemed Pérez’s act “a terrorist attack.” Pérez then published a video statement that demanded “immediate resignation” of the president and “immediate general elections.” He claimed to represent a coalition of military, police and civil officials staging an internal revolt “against this transitional criminal government.” By 8:00 pm, the government had suspended all flights in Venezuela indefinitely and heightened security at the presidential palace. Officials are still searching for Pérez.
We have yet to see whether Macri will issue a statement pertaining specifically to the events of last night.