Armed with pipes, sticks and stones, supporters of embattled Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro stormed the country’s National Assembly in Caracas Wednesday and attacked opposition lawmakers, witnesses said.
The Independence Day clashes in the opposition-controlled chamber were the latest outbreak of violence in a country struggling with a deepening economic crisis and sometimes bloody street protests calling for a change of government.
Video and images from the scene showed government supporters — some wearing bandanas and carrying Venezuela’s tricolor flag — storming the assembly building and pushing open its massive wooden doors.
Inside, blood stained the floors and walls of the assembly hall as wounded lawmakers were tended to by colleagues.
At least seven legislative employees and five lawmakers were injured, according to National Assembly President Julio Borges.
Journalists inside the assembly building said they had also been assaulted.
The US State Department issued a statement Wednesday night calling the clash “an assault on the democratic principles cherished by the men and women who struggled for Venezuela’s independence 206 years ago today.”
The statement called on the Venezuelan government “to immediately provide for the protection of the National Assembly, ensure those injured in today’s attack are able to receive medical attention, and bring the attackers to justice.”
Before ending a military parade on the 206th anniversary of the signing of the declaration of independence, Maduro condemned the violence and said “strange facts always occur with the opposition.” He also ordered an investigation.
“I will never be complicit to any act of violence,” he said. “I want peace for Venezuela. I do not accept violence from anyone.”
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SOURCE: CNN, Ray Sanchez