By Nestor Rojas Mavares (dpa)
HAVANA TIMES — A group of alleged Maduro government supporters forcefully entered the National Assembly building on Wednesday, in an attack which left at least 12 people injured, 5 legislators among them, who stood up to the attackers with their fists.
The incident was preceded by firecrackers being thrown towards the Federal Palace’s gardens, after a special session had been held for National Independence day which only opposition legislators participated in.
Amidst the firecracker blasts, legislators sought refuge inside the Chamber, but some then decided to go out and stand up to the group when they found out that they had entered the gardens.
“We went out to defend the Assembly, our place of work,” legislator Richard Blanco said, his shirt ripped, and he accused the Mayor of Caracas, the pro-government Jorge Rodriguez, of paying the instigators of this attack.
The legislators got involved in the scuffle of blows which resulted in five legislators being injured as well as seven Assembly employees.
Legislator Americo De Grazie was unconscious when he was taken to the infirmary with a contusion on his head and several broken ribs and was then transferred to a clinic. His condition remains yet to be seen.
The legislators accused the National Guard (military police) commando, who are responsible for guarding the legislature, for allowing the attack by the so-called pro-government “collectives”.
President Nicolas Maduro condemned the incidents and labeled them “strange”, while he took part in a military parade for Independence Day.
“Some strange events have taken place at the Assembly. It’s always strange where the opposition is. Some arguments and violent events. I condemn these events, I won’t be made complicit in these events and I have ordered an investigation in order to bring about justice. I don’t accept violence from anyone, let there be an investigation to uncover the truth,” Maduro stated.
The leader of the opposition, Stalin Gonzalez, denounced the National Guard for opening the metal gate to the intruders so they could “come attack and injure” the legislators.
Meanwhile, the president of the Assembly, Julio Borges, accused those responsible for security for “opening the doors so the violent people could come in,” while he rejected Maduro’s statement condemning the events.
“The Government rejects all of the violent acts today at the Assembly in utter hypocrisy, it was its own armed groups who attacked and assaulted us,” he pointed out while talking from the National Assembly.
“Violence in Venezuela goes by the name Nicolas Maduro,” he emphasized. “When they want to repress protests when thousands of Venezuelans take to the streets, they manage to do this in a matter of seconds. When it’s their people, there isn’t any repression,” he added.
He pointed out among the assailants was a commentator on a government TV channel, Oswaldo Rivero, a candidate for the Constitutional Assembly, called by Maduro to amend the Constitution.
Rivero issued a video where he took responsibility for the attack, accusing the legislators of promoting violent protests against the Government, which has left 91 people dead in the last three months.
After the National Guard intervened, peace returned to the Assembly, although legislators said that they were still being held hostage because “armed groups” were still outside.
Legislators managed to detain one of the attackers, who they beat up and took his ID card off of him. “They pay you to kill your brothers,” legislator Yajaira Forero shouted at him, who confirmed the fact that the ID they seized was from Caracas City Hall.
The United States condemned the attack and has put it within the framework of this government’s “growing authoritarianism”. “This violence, perpetrated during National Independence celebrations, is an attack on the cherished democratic principles that men and women fought for in the independence of Venezuela 206 years ago,” the Department of State pointed out.
The attacks took place hours after vice-president Tareck El Aissami entered the House of Delegates with a group of ministers, without warning, to carry out the opening of the commemoration for National Independence, which was established on July 5th 1811.
The officials were accompanied by pro-Maduro government supporters, who are pushing for a Constitutional Assembly which will have the power to possibly dissolve the Legislature among other powers.
After these violent events, the Assembly approved a referendum to ratify or reject the Constitutional Assembly.
The proposal, which won’t be binding, will take place on July 16th, two weeks before elections for the 545 members of the Constitutional Assembly, which the opposition rejects.
Maduro is pushing for the creation of the Constitutional Assembly and claims that it will return peace to the country, which he said has been disrupted by anti-government protests.