By Kerem Tuncer
Last Tuesday, the 27th of June, Venezuela panicked as a police helicopter launched grenades at the Supreme Court building. The attack, which was reportedly executed by a police officer working in the nation’s Investigative Task Force, followed a series of public protests that took place in the streets of Caracas against the corrupt Maduro regime.
Details of the attack
Although the Venezuelan Air Force has already found the missing helicopter near the municipality of Osma, law enforcement is yet to find any of the culprits involved in the assault. The country’s Interior Minister, Néstor Luis Reverol, announced that they have already requested that Interpol issue a red notice for Oscar Perez, the only known suspect so far.
According to President Nicolas Maduro, there were two grenades thrown into the Supreme Court building, both of which failed to explode. Other sources, however, claim that the number of grenades was much higher than the number initially reported by Maduro.
Numerous videos on social media show that the assailant was holding a political banner that read “Liberty. Article 350”, in reference to the constitutional article which gives citizens the right to protest against “any regime that runs counter to democratic guarantees or undermines human rights.”
A backdrop of unrest
The latest outrage started in the end of March when the pro-Maduro Supreme Tribunal of Justice took over all legislative powers of the National Assembly and discontinued the immunity granted to the Members of Parliament. At the time of these decisions, the Assembly was dominated primarily by the Opposition, who had an 112-55 lead in the number of seats.
Following the Supreme Tribunal’s constitutional crisis, millions of Venezuelans assembled at the “We Are Millions” march in Caracas. They rioted for an end to the government’s violent repression and called for immediate elections. During the several months of protests, more than 90 were killed, 15000 injured and roughly 3000 arrested for crimes of disobedience against the socialist regime.
The assault was presumably triggered by many such events in Venezuela. However, most recently, tensions flared due to Maduro’s statement on his supporters’ willingness to take up arms in case of an ‘undemocratic’ threat to the bolivarianist regime.
From ‘hero’ to ‘zero’
Before undertaking the attack on the Supreme Court, Oscar Perez was believed to be one of the most qualified intelligence officers in Venezuela’s forensic police force (CICPC). Indeed, the state media announced that he was previously promoted to be the chief of operations for the Air Force division.
Perez, who is an avid social media user, has in the past posted videos of himself petting police dogs, hugging child cancer patients, and hitting trick shots with his pistol. At one point, his appealing personality got him the nickname ‘the Venezuelan James Bond’, as he has played several roles in action movies.
Unfortunately, these action movies came to life with Perez as the villain. Immediately following the bombing, President Maduro declared Perez a terrorist for the crimes. These include stealing an official police helicopter and planning a coup on the democratically elected government.
Was the ‘attack’ really an attack?
There are also others who believe that the helicopter incident was just a hoax. Given Perez’s love of social media and acting, questions of its legitimacy have surfaced. Some wonder whether it was just a plan by Perez to increase his growing popularity.
Others are comparing the attack to the Reichstag Fire—a self-coup Hitler used to justify a stricter watch on the German populace. It is entirely possible that Maduro—who has been trying to change the constitution for a long time—planned the attack to provide a reason for further repression.
“Some people say it is a hoax, some say it is real“, opposition member Julio Borges told reporters.
A possible return to civil war?
In March of 1858, the autocratic Monagas regime, who had ruled Venezuela since 1848, was overthrown in a revolution engineered by conservatives and liberals who were both vying for power. After almost 160 years, Venezuela is getting closer and closer to another civil war. Substituting the name Monagas with Maduro, we are left with what may be to come in Venezuela’s uncertain future.
Several experts believe that there is already a nonviolent civil war happening, which could turn into violence at any moment. “If this (assaults on government institutions) becomes the full modus operandi of the protesters, it is pretty likely that it will escalate into an openly declared war next. These current acts seem to be a roadmap,” explains Monica Showalter, a contributor for the American Thinker.
Despite the possibility, there are also several markers of civil war which were present in places like Syria and Ukraine but are absent in Venezuela. For example, all of Venezuela’s opposition leaders are determined to continue with nonviolence as the only path of resistance and the majority of demonstrators have been peaceful since the beginning of protests. It remains to be seen if it will stay that way.
Featured Image Source: Wikimedia Commons
Stay updated with all the insights.
Navigate news, 1 email day.
Subscribe to Qrius