Mexico City (CNSNews.com) – Opponents of Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro are likely to face increased repression as his authoritarian government moves to eliminate threats to its power following an alleged drone attack on him at a military parade on Saturday, according to an analyst in the region.
“We can’t trust what the government is saying about the attack,” Raúl Gallegos, associate director of the international risk consultancy Control Risks, told CNSNews.com from his office in Bogotá, Colombia.
There have been numerous claims of attacks on Maduro’s life in the past which the regime has used as a pretext to crack down on its opponents.
Given the Maduro regime’s lack of transparency, Gallegos said the facts about an aerial explosion that took place Saturday as the president addressed a military parade in Caracas are unlikely to be known any time soon.
Videos clips posted online show Maduro and his wife reacting to an explosion heard above a reviewing stand during the 81st anniversary celebration of the founding of the Bolivarian National Guard.
Moments later, parade participants and guard members are seen running for cover along Bolivar Avenue in front of the reviewing stand. Other video clips show an explosion in mid-air.
Aside from the videos, Gallegos said he doesn’t have the “elements to say this was an actual attempt on Maduro’s life.”
“The government is very savvy about turning bad news into opportunity to expand its control over the apparatus of the government and the private sector and its ability to control those that oppose it.”
Gallegos expressed concern that the Maduro regime would use the drone incident as an excuse to jail more opponents, including members of the military and the regime’s own coalition that are “not in line with the government.”
The regime is struggling to consolidate its power following Maduro’s re-election in May which was widely condemned as fraudulent, undemocratic and unconstitutional, said Gallegos.
He predicted the regime would tighten ties with its ally Cuba, and even allow the further decline of Venezuela’s economy and plunging oil production, “to make sure they can cement their hold on power.”
An opposition group calling itself the “Movement Nacional Soldados de Franelas” claimed responsibility for the drone incident in a posting on its Twitter feed, saying the group had demonstrated that the government is “vulnerable,” and adding, “It didn’t succeed today, but it’s a question of time.”
The Spanish word “franelas” refers to the bandanas many protestors against the regime in Venezuela use to cover their faces.
The group’s Twitter account was opened in 2014. The group’s website says it is comprised of hundreds of people working at the national level to recover liberty and democracy in Venezuela.
Interior Minister Néstor Reverol said Sunday six people had been arrested in connection with the alleged attack and various hotels had been raided, with evidence seized.
Reverol claimed that one drone exploded in midair as a result of intervention by the presidential guard, while the other detonated after falling next to a nearby building.
The government said M600 industrial drones were used, along with C4 explosive capable of causing damage in a 50-meter radius.
According to Venezuela’s attorney general, Tarek William Saab, two suspects were seized on the day of the event on suspicion of operating one of the drones from a vehicle.
If Saturday’s event was an actual attempt to assassinate Maduro, the use of C4 may point to military involvement, said Gallegos, noting that “C4 is not something you could buy in the corner store.”
The M600 drone is a high-end sophisticated remote-controlled aircraft that can carry 13 pounds of cargo.
When equipped with a GPS device, it can be controlled using a tablet, even beyond the operator’s range of vision, according to Sarah Kreps, an associate professor of government at Cornell University and author of two books on drones and drone warfare.
The Maduro regime on Monday lashed out at the Colombian government, accusing it of failing to condemn Saturday’s events and also harboring Venezuelans seeking to stage attacks on the Maduro regime.
In a statement, the regime said Colombian President Juan Manuel Santos had in the past called for a “change of government” in Venezuela, Caracas newspaper El Universal reported.
And it warned that Colombia would be held responsible for any new aggression against the Venezuelan state.