CARACAS (Reuters) – Venezuela’s government said it foiled a marine incursion on Sunday by “terrorist mercenaries” who attempted to enter the country on speedboats from neighboring Colombia, adding security forces killed eight of the assailants.
FILE PHOTO: Venezuela’s President Nicolas Maduro speaks during a news conference at Miraflores Palace in Caracas, Venezuela, March 12, 2020. REUTERS/Manaure Quintero/File Photo
President Nicolas Maduro frequently accuses political adversaries of attempting to overthrow his administration with the support of the United States, which has vowed to force him from office through sanctions that have crippled the OPEC nation’s oil exports.
Critics of the ruling Socialist Party often dismiss such accusations as stunts used as an excuse to detain opponents of the government.
The group landed early on Sunday on the coast of La Guaira, about 20 miles (32 km) from the capital Caracas, Interior Minister Nestor Reverol said in a televised address.
“They tried to carry out an invasion by sea, a group of terrorist mercenaries from Colombia, in order to commit terrorist acts in the country, murdering leaders of the revolutionary government,” he said.
Socialist Party leader Diosdado Cabello said eight people were killed and two were detained.
“We have deactivated an attempted incursion of our territory, thanks to intelligence efforts,” Cabello told reporters.
Maduro has overseen a six-year economic crisis that has left many citizens unable to obtain basic food and medicine and forced nearly five million people to emigrate.
The United States and more than fifty other countries disavowed Maduro after his disputed 2018 election, which they say was rigged, and instead have recognized opposition leader Juan Guaido as the nation’s legitimate interim leader.
But Maduro retains the backing of the country’s armed forces as well as countries including China and Russia, which have harshly criticized the U.S. sanctions.
Reporting Vivian Sequera; Writing by Brian Ellsworth; Editing by Daniel Wallis