The Latest: Expert says Maduro may use attack for purge

CARACAS, Venezuela (AP) — The Latest on explosions at speech given by Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro (all times local):

9:55 p.m.

A Venezuela expert says it’s likely President Nicolas Maduro will use a suspected assassination attempt to purge disloyal officials and further clamp down on liberties.

Authorities in Venezuelan said Saturday that drones loaded with explosives targeted Maduro speaking at a military celebration, but exploded before reaching the president.

David Smilde of the Washington Office on Latin America says the amateurish attack didn’t appear to be staged by Maduro’s government for political gain.

However, Smilde says it prompted embarrassing TV images of Maduro cut off mid-sentence with droves of soldiers running away in fear, making the president appear vulnerable.

Despite the optics, Smilde says Maduro will use it to concentrate power, further restricting liberty while purging the government and armed forces.


8:25 p.m.

Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro says authorities have captured some of those responsible for what he is calling an assassination attempt.

In an impassioned address to the nation, Maduro said some of the “material authors” of an attack with drones are now in custody.

He said far-right wing factions within Venezuela working in collaboration with conspirators in Bogota and Miami were responsible.

He did not provide the names of those detained or describe the charges they are facing.

Maduro added that some of those who financed the attack are in Miami and that he hoped President Donald Trump is “willing to fight the terrorist groups.”

He promised a full investigation to hold all those responsible, “No matter who falls.”


8:05 p.m.

President Nicolas Maduro is blaming far-right factions in Venezuela for what he is describing as an assassination attempt.

In an address to the nation Saturday, Maduro said: “This was an attempt to kill me. Today they attempted to assassinate me.”

He said evidence gathered thus far “points to the far right” working in conjunction with Colombians in the neighboring Andean nation.

Maduro said he believed Colombian President Juan Manuel Santos was also responsible.

He added police had made arrests in the incident but did not immediately provide any further details.

Colombians officials have not yet commented on the accusation. Santos has become one of Maduro’s most outspoken critics.


7:50 a.m.

A previously unknown group has claimed responsibility for an attempted attack on Venezuela’s President Nicolas Maduro.

Soldiers in T-shirts said in a tweet Saturday that it planned to fly two drones loaded with explosives at the president, but government soldiers shot them down before reaching its target.

The Associated Press could not independently verify the authenticity of message.

The group says that while it was not successful at first, it’s just a matter of time before it is.

The organization did not respond to a message seeking more information.

Maduro was unharmed in the attack.



Firefighters at the scene of an explosion that Venezuelan officials call an attack on President Nicolas Maduro are disputing the government’s version of events.

Three officials who spoke on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to discuss the case say the incident was actually a gas tank explosion inside an apartment.

Smoke could be seen coming out of a building window at the site of the incident.

Information Minister Jorge Rodriguez said that several drones armed with explosives detonated near Maduro as he was delivering a speech.

He characterized it as an attack aimed at the embattled president, who was recently elected to a new term in office despite a crippling economic and humanitarian crisis.

Maduro is safe and unharmed.


4:20 p.m.

Venezuela’s government says several explosions heard at a military event were an attempted attack on President Nicolas Maduro.

Information Minister Jorge Rodriguez said in a live broadcast Saturday that several drone-like devices with explosives detonated near the president.

He said Maduro is safe and unharmed but that seven people were injured.

Firefighters near the scene are disputing the government’s version of events.