A Venezuelan police helicopter attacked the country’s Supreme Court building and a government ministry on Tuesday, escalating the country’s political crisis.
Government officials say the aircraft, which was reportedly stolen by Oscar Perez, an opposition investigative police pilot, fired 15 shots at the Interior Ministry and dropped four grenades on the court when judges were meeting.
Though there were no reports of injuries in the attack, the country’s President, Nicolas Maduro described the incident as an attack by terrorists seeking to overthrow the government.
“Sooner rather than later, we are going to capture the helicopter and those behind this armed terrorist attack against the institutions of the country,” Maduro said. “They could have caused dozens of deaths,” he added.
Maduro’s opponents view the Interior Ministry as a bastion of repression and have openly expressed their hatred for the Supreme Court for its strings of rulings that have bolstered the President’s power and undermined the opposition’s power in the legislature.
The 54-year-old socialist leader has been facing months of opposition protests which label him as a dictator who has destroyed the once prosperous economy of Venezuela which is regarded as having the world’s largest crude oil reserves.
The protesters are demanding for general elections, measures to ameliorate the country’s deepening economic crisis, freedom for hundreds of jailed opposition activists and independence for the opposition-controlled National Assembly while Maduro, who replaced Hugo Chavez in 2013, is pushing for the establishment of a Constituent Assembly which would rewrite the national charter and supersede other institutions such as the opposition-controlled congress.
Maduro had earlier on Tuesday, threatened that he and his supporters would take up arms if the socialist government was violently overthrown by his opponents whom he claims were backed by the United States.
“If Venezuela was plunged into chaos and violence and the Bolivarian Revolution destroyed, we would go to combat. We would never give up, and what couldn’t be done with votes, we would do with arms. We would liberate the fatherland with arms,” he said.