Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro is looking for assistance from an unexpected source following the alleged assassination attempt on his life last weekend. After what the Venezuelan government described as a pair of drones loaded with C4 explosives narrowly missed Maduro, his wife, and a contingent of Venezuelan leaders at a national event on Saturday, the South American head-of-state called on two of his most bitter rivals to come to his aid in tracking down the suspected perpetrators.
Maduro asked U.S. President Donald Trump to help him “fight the terrorist groups that commit attacks in peaceful countries in our continent, in this case, Venezuela.” Despite publicly blaming Colombian President Juan Manuel Santos for the attack, Maduro also asked his western neighbors to participate in rooting out his would-be assassins.
A cornered Maduro
Promising a “crackdown” on “far right” dissidents, Maduro believes that Venezuelan expatriates orchestrated the assault from the safety of American soil. “The preliminary investigation indicates that many of those responsible for the attack, the financiers and planners, live in the United States, in the state of Florida,” the despotic ruler said.
The alleged attack took place while Maduro was speaking at a massive outdoor parade in Caracas to commemorate the 81st anniversary of the Venezuelan national guard. According to Interior Minister Nestor Reverol, one of the drones was set to explode above Maduro and his wife, while a second unmanned aircraft was supposed to detonate in front of him.
In an unspecified manner, government security was able to electronically take control of one of the drones and steer it off course, while the second one crashed into an apartment building two blocks away. Maduro’s personal security detachment quickly covered him with an impenetrable wall of shields before escorting him away to safety.
“That drone came after me,” Maduro said, recalling the first responders. “But there was a shield of love that always protects us. I’m sure I’ll live for many more years.”
It didn’t take long for the Venezuelan strongarm dictator to level serious charges at his rivals. “This was an attempt to kill me,” Maduro said during an interview on state television. “They have tried to assassinate me and everything points to the Venezuelan ultra-right in alliance with the Colombian far right and that the name of [Columbian President] Juan Manuel Santos is behind this attack.”
The Colombian connection
Colombian officials have dismissed the allegations against them as “baseless” and “absurd.” One government official even told Reuters news agency that the Colombian president was at his granddaughter’s baptism on the day of the attack.
While representatives from the U.S. State Department acknowledge “the reports coming out of Venezuela” and have said that they are “carefully following the situation,” Americans have reason to be skeptical regarding the Venezuelan accusations. Maduro loyalists regularly accuse opposition forces of attempting to overthrow the regime, and the ruling party is insecure from governing a deeply dissatisfied electorate.
Maduro’s presidential legitimacy has been questioned after he banned the most popular political parties from opposing him during his re-election campaign, and the faltering socialist economy he administers certainly hasn’t won him any friends. Chronic food shortages have led to widespread looting and protests throughout the country, leaving a long list of dissidents who would risk everything to see Maduro deposed.
“We either loot or we die of hunger,” a citizen told local reporters from Diario la Verdad after food riots in January.
A group made up of disenfranchised veterans calling themselves Soldiers in T-shirts claimed responsibility for the assassination attempt. “We showed that they are vulnerable. It was not successful today, but it is just a matter of time,” they tweeted moments after the failed coup.
Maduro’s attempt to suddenly cooperate with Trump would be perplexing if it weren’t for his transparent instincts for self-preservation. Throughout his presidency, Trump has publicly and privately expressed a strong desire to see Maduro removed from power — even threatening military force to accomplish this end.
“We have many options for Venezuela, including a possible military option, if necessary,” Trump said in August 2017.
National Security Advisor John Bolton has also expressed skepticism regarding the validity of Maduro’s attempt to establish a U.S. connection to his would-be assassins. “I can say unequivocally there was no U.S. government involvement in this at all,” Bolton told “Fox News Sunday.”
Bolton continued: “If the government of Venezuela has hard information that they want to present to us that would show a potential violation of U.S. criminal law, we’ll take a serious look at it, but in the meantime I think what we really should focus on is the corruption and oppression in the Maduro regime in Venezuela.”