Rogue Police Officers in Helicopter Attack Venezuela’s Supreme Court

The Venezuelan authorities inspected the area around the Supreme Court in Caracas on Tuesday after a police faction flew a helicopter over the court headquarters, dropping grenades and firing into the building, according to government officials. (Miguel Gutierrez/European Pressphoto Agency)

A rogue faction of the Venezuelan police attacked the country’s Supreme Court in Caracas on Tuesday, dropping grenades from a helicopter, government officials said. It was a rare uprising by government personnel in a country that has been on edge from mass protests and economic crises.

A video shot from a window and posted on Twitter shows a helicopter swooping in a circle around a building as explosions are heard.

Another video posted on social media on Tuesday showed a uniformed man identified as Oscar Pérez, flanked by masked, heavily armed men in uniforms, taking responsibility for the operation. The speaker said he represented a coalition of military, police and civilian personnel who opposed what he called “this transitional, criminal government.”

“We are nationalists, patriots and institutionalists,” the man said. “This fight is not against other state security forces. It is against the impunity imposed by this government. It is against tyranny. It is against the death of young people fighting for their legitimate rights.”

It was not clear if the assault resulted in any casualties or where the attackers were on Tuesday night. Despite Mr. Pérez’s claims, it could not be determined how much support, if any, the attackers had. In any case, they did not come close to overthrowing the government.

In pictures of the helicopter attack that circulated online, a man who looks like Mr. Pérez appeared to be piloting the aircraft as a second man, in a balaclava, held a sign that said, “Art. 350, Libertad.”

Experts said it was a reference to Article 350 of the Venezuelan Constitution, which encourages people to “disown any regime, legislation or authority that runs counter to democratic principles and guarantees, or that undermines human rights.”

Elsewhere in Caracas, opposition members of the National Assembly said they were being besieged by armed government supporters.

Ernesto Villegas, Venezuela’s minister of communications and information, said on national television that President Nicolás Maduro had been briefed on “an act of violence” launched from a helicopter that belongs to a law enforcement agency.

Mr. Villegas characterized the event as an “uprising against the republic, the Constitution.”

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SOURCE: NY Times, Ernesto Londono and Nicholas Casey

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