Venezuela: Helicopter strafes court in ‘terrorist attack’

CARACAS, Venezuela (AP) — A police helicopter fired on Venezuela’s Supreme Court and Interior Ministry in what President Nicolas Maduro said was a thwarted terrorist attack aimed at ousting him from power.

The confusing incident, which may ratchet up tensions in a country already paralyzed by months of deadly anti-government protests, took place as Maduro was speaking live on state television Tuesday and as the high court handed down a series of rulings against the opposition.

He later said the helicopter had fired on the pro-government court with grenades, one of which didn’t go off, helping avoid any loss of life.

Adding to the intrigue, pictures of a blue police helicopter carrying an anti-government banner appeared on social media around the same time as a video in which an apparent police pilot and budding action movie actor, identified as Oscar Perez, called for a rebellion against Maduro’s “tyranny.” He said he was part of a coalition of renegade members of the country’s security forces.

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Authorities said they were still searching for the man.

“We have two choices: be judged tomorrow by our conscience and the people or begin today to free ourselves from this corrupt government,” the man said while reading from a manifesto in front of four figures dressed in fatigues, wearing ski masks and carrying assault rifles.

There was no sign of any other police or troops taking part an uprising.

Many of Maduro’s opponents took to social media to accuse the president of orchestrating an elaborate ruse to justify a crackdown against those seeking to block his plans to rewrite the constitution. Venezuela has been roiled by anti-government protests the past three months that have left at least 75 people dead and hundreds injured.

Less than two hours later, still on state TV, Maduro sounded alternately calm and angry as he told the audience about what…

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