Stolen police helicopter used during a daring attack on the Venezuelan Supreme Court found
Caracas,June29:A stolen police helicopter used during a daring attack on the Venezuelan Supreme Court was found Wednesday in a rural part of the country, but the man authorities say piloted the aircraft is on the run.
The helicopter was allegedly piloted by Oscar Perez, an officer in the country’s investigative police force. As it strafed the court building and the Interior Ministry in Caracas on Tuesday, attackers fired gunshots and lobbed grenades, officials said.
The assault was a dramatic escalation of the months-long crisis engulfing the regime of President Nicolas Maduro.
None of those involved in the attack appear to have been tracked down. Venezuela has asked Interpol to issue a red notice for Perez, according to Néstor Luis Reverol, the county’s minister of interior, justice and peace. A red notice alerts authorities in other countries, including border officials, that someone is wanted.
The helicopter was found in the seaside state of Vargas, Venezuelan state news agency AVN reported. Photos published on the verified Twitter feed for Venezuela’s Vice President Tareck El Aissami show the helicopter in a clearing. It was found by the Venezuelan Air Force in a heavily-wooded area near the municipality of Osma, some 80 kilometers (50 miles) northeast of Caracas.
Maduro condemned the attack as an attempted coup, saying “terrorists” were behind the offensive and that an operation was underway to track the perpetrators down.
But much remained murky about the assault. If it was an attempt to unseat Maduro’s government, it was a spectacular failure; no one was injured and one of the grenades failed to explode, government officials said.
It was unclear how a rogue police helicopter could have circled high-profile buildings in the Venezuelan capital without being shot down. Witnesses and local journalists said the assault went on for about two hours.
Earlier Tuesday, Maduro appeared to foreshadow an uprising, saying that his supporters would be ready to take up arms if the “Bolivarian revolution” was threatened.
The attack came after months of protests against Maduro’s regime and ahead of a vote on July 30 to elect members of a controversial new body that could make changes to the country’s constitution.
Before the attack began, a man who identified himself as Perez appeared in a video online saying an operation was underway to seize democracy back from Venezuela’s “criminal government.” Flanked by a group of armed men in military fatigues and balaclavas, Perez claimed to be speaking on behalf of a coalition of military, police officers and civil officials.
In his video message, Perez said he was a pilot in the special response unit of Venezuela’s Criminal Investigative Police (CICPC) and demanded that Maduro step down.
“On this day, we are carrying out a deployment by air and land with the sole purpose to return the democratic power to the people and to ensure the laws to establish constitutional order,” he said.
Photographs posted online showed a helicopter with the initials of the investigative police unit on its side, flying above the capital, Caracas.
Through an open door an occupant is seen holding a banner saying “Article 350 libertad” — referring to an article in the Venezuelan constitution that allows citizens to oppose the government should it subvert democratic principles.
It remained unclear on Wednesday how much support the assailants enjoyed among the police and security services they claimed to represent.
The background of Perez, the apparent ringleader, appeared colorful: Reuters reported that he was involved in a 2015 action film, Suspended Death, which he co-produced and starred in as an intelligence agent rescuing a kidnapped businessman.