back to top

Venezuela's President Says A Rogue Police Helicopter Attacked The Supreme Court With Grenades

President Nicolás Maduro claimed the aerial attack was part of a conspiracy to overthrow his government.

Posted on
Handout / Reuters

Venezuelan President Nicolás Maduro said that a stolen police helicopter fired on the Supreme Court Tuesday in what he described as a foiled "terrorist attack" against the government.

Speaking live on state television, Maduro said the helicopter dropped grenades on the court building, condemning the attack as part of a "coup plot" aimed at ousting him from power. He added that he would activate the national defense system, and that security forces were already searching for the attackers.

A statement from the government later claimed that the helicopter fired 15 shots at the Interior Ministry before flying to the court, where justices were meeting, and launching four grenades.

There were no reports of injuries, and the president of the Supreme Court later confirmed to the Associated Press that no one was hurt in the attack.

The helicopter was apparently stolen by Oscar Perez. In a video posted on social media Tuesday, Perez, who reports say is a police pilot, claims responsibility for the attack, standing in front of four armed, masked men.

Oscar Perez/Instagram / Via youtube.com

Perez claims he represents "a coalition of military officials, police, and civil servants in the search for stability and against this temporary, criminal government." He adds that the group does not have any political affiliations.

"In this day, we are conducting an aerial and terrestrial operation with the only goal of returning power to the democratic people and, in that way, accomplish and re-establish the constitutional order," Perez says. "We demand, President Nicolás Maduro Moros, your immediate resignation, along with that of your ministers, and that a general election is immediately called."

An Instagram bio identifies Perez as an investigator, pilot, and K9 trainer for the CICPC, Venezuela's police intelligence unit. In the video, he says that his group does not identify with a political party.

Other pictures circulating online showed a man who appeared to be Perez piloting the blue police helicopter while a second man waved a banner that said "Art. 350, Libertad."

🔴 Stolen helicopter drops grenades near #Venezuela's Supreme Court-Local Press 📸

The sign is reportedly a reference to Article 350 in the Venezuelan constitution, which allows people to "disown any regime, legislation, or authority that violates democratic values, principles, and guarantees or encroaches upon human rights."

Despite Perez’s claims, it was not immediately clear whether the attackers had any support. And by the end of the night, Maduro's government seemed to remain firmly in power.

video-cdn.buzzfeed.com

News of the helicopter attack, and the subsequent mobilization of national security forces, immediately prompted a flood of rumors across Venezuelan social media. Some of Maduro's opponents accused the president of having orchestrated the attack to justify a crackdown on anti-government protesters.

Adding to the intrigue, Perez is also reportedly an actor, having co-produced and starred in the 2015 Venezuelan action film Suspended Death, in which he played an intelligence agent rescuing a kidnapped businessman, according to Reuters.

Christian Veron / Reuters

The incident comes amid weeks of nonstop protests in Venezuela, as opposition activists accuse Maduro's government of authoritarian tactics and economic mismanagement. More than 70 people have died since the clashes began this spring, and hundreds more have been injured.

The Supreme Court, which is largely allied with Maduro, has been a frequent target of the opposition's ire. On Tuesday, the court issued a ruling that seemed to limit the power of Attorney General Luisa Ortega, a vocal opponent of the president who has been the highest-ranking official to speak out against the government.

Michelle Broder Van Dyke is a reporter and night editor for BuzzFeed News and is based in Hawaii.

Contact Michelle Broder Van Dyke at michelle@buzzfeed.com.

Got a confidential tip? Submit it here.