Dozens of pro-government activists have stormed the grounds of Venezuela’s National Assembly and attacked lawmakers, leaving several hurt and bleeding.
Intruders brandishing sticks and dressed in red broke through the front gate and set off fireworks in the interior gardens of the building on Wednesday, AFP journalists at the scene said.
The government supporters reached as far as the corridors of the congressional building, striking and injuring at least three lawmakers.
The attackers ordered journalists to stop filming and taking photographs and leave the premises.
Lawmaker Yajaira de Forero named three of her colleagues who she said were struck, including one who was taken away for medical treatment.
Tension is high in Venezuela after three months of anti-government protests that have seen 91 people killed in clashes with police.
Protesters blame President Nicolas Maduro for a desperate economic crisis. He said the chaos is the result of a US-backed capitalist conspiracy by the opposition.
The opposition-controlled legislature was holding a special session to mark independence day when the government supporters burst in.
Before the violence broke out on Wednesday, Maduro’s vice-president Tareck El Aissami had made an impromptu appearance in the Congress along with the head of the armed forces, Vladimir Padrino Lopez and ministers.
Venezuela faces food and medical supply shortage
During his visit, El Aissami called on supporters of Maduro to come to the legislature to show support for him.
A crowd of Maduro supporters had already been rallying outside the building for several hours before breaking into the grounds.
Maduro retains the public backing of the military high command — a key factor in keeping him in power, according to analysts.
Government and opposition have accused each other of using armed groups to sow violence.
The opposition has accused plainclothes armed pro-government groups of attacking protesters.
While the chaos erupted in the grounds of the assembly, Maduro was watching a military parade in another part of Caracas, with troops marching and armored vehicles rumbling by.
In a speech at the parade, he demanded that the military be “ever loyal, never traitors.”
“Let no one become a Trojan horse,” he said. “Let no one become a servant of the oligarchy.”
|Three months of anti-government protests have seen 91 people killed in clashes with police [Reuters]|
Source: News agencies