Venezuelan activists in Miami expressed concern on Sunday that an alleged drone attack on Venezuela’s leader could be used by the Maduro government to embark on a new wave of repression against opposition groups in the country.
Speaking to el Nuevo Herald, the activists also dismissed accusations by President Nicolás Maduro that the attack is linked to people in Florida.
“We believe that the regime will launch a fierce attack against the opposition, there will be more violations of human rights, and this gives rise to arrest, accuse, and persecute the opposition within the country,” said José Antonio Colina, president of Venezolanos Perseguidos Políticos en el Exilio (Veppex)..
Colina, a retired lieutenant in the National Guard, said there’s real “fear” that Maduro and his allies will strike out against opponents.
A clandestine group of Venezuelan soldiers claimed responsibility for Saturday’s alleged attack against Maduro, in a statement obtained by el Nuevo Herald.
The group admitted the failure of what it called “Operation Phoenix” and did not confirm if the action was an attempt on Maduro’s life. But they assumed responsibility for the explosions, which led Maduro to cut short a televised speech and for soldiers in formation to take cover.
Maduro’s security team led him to safety.
Three prosecutors were tapped to investigate the drone attack.
Patricia Andrade, executive director of the human-rights organization Venezuela Awareness Foundation, said Maduro’s government takes advantage of any excuse to stop the opposition and dig in its heels.
“The few opposition voices remaining in Venezuela would be the first targets, as well as the citizens who support those opponents,” Andrade said.
Diego Moya-Ocampos, a Latin American analyst based in London for the firm IHS Markit, said he expects “a new wave of repression, like a witch hunt.”
“But that does not hide the reality: that the government can no longer count on the unconditional support of all the military sectors,” he said.
As for Maduro’s accusations that the alleged perpetrators are in Florida and Colombia, Andrade said that this is part of the “stigmatized Cuban script that is always the fault of the Miami and now Bogota groups. It is the first response to what is not known. “
The Venezuelan leader pointed to Florida and the “Venezuelan ultra-right in alliance with the Colombian far right and that ... Colombian President Juan Manuel Santos is behind this attack.”
The accusation was rejected by the Colombian Foreign Ministry, which called it “absurd.”
“It is already customary for the Venezuelan president to permanently blame Colombia for any type of situation. We demand respect for President Juan Manuel Santos, for the Government and the Colombian people, “ the ministry said in a statement.
U.S. National Security Adviser John Bolton denied that the United States was involved.