CARACAS – Pro-government supporters stormed Venezuela’s National Assembly on Wednesday for the second time in eight months and attacked congressmen and journalists as well as workers, after the parliament agreed on a referendum on July 16 against the government’s attempt to call for a National Constituent Assembly.
The opposition-controlled National Assembly was besieged by dozens of Bolivarian Revolution supporters, who threw stones and blunt objects as well as fireworks into the building, injuring around 20 people, including at least seven members of parliament.
The attack took place before noon, shortly after the vice president of the Maduro government, Tareck El Aissami, urged the “revolutionaries” to go to the Federal Legislative Palace, a body “kidnapped” by the “oligarchy,” according to him.
Along with other ministers and the high command of the military, the vice president was at the Palace to preside over the Venezuelan Independence Day ceremony, held annually on July 5 in the National Assembly.
However, after a brief solemn session, the congressmen were interrupted by a group of pro-government “Chavista,” whose faces were covered.
The group attacked the congressmen, journalists and workers with clubs, stones and blunt objects, while some of their belongings were stolen.
Dozens of members of the Bolivarian National Guard (GNB) managed to oust the aggressors, although the opposition coalition Democratic Unity Roundtable (MUD) criticized the actions of the GNB as “indifference” and accused them of having allowed the attackers to enter the building.
The National Assembly President Julio Borges condemned the attack and said that seven congressmen were injured, five of whom had to be hospitalized, while others who were working at the scene suffered different levels of injuries.
Despite the attack, the National Assembly approved the call for a referendum aimed at consulting the Venezuelan people whether to reject or support the National Constituent Assembly, a body that has been previously convened by the Maduro government to draft a new constitution, which will be elected on July 30.
President Nicolas Maduro, for his part, condemned the attack and ordered an investigation into the event.
“I will never be complicit in any violent act,” the head of state said at a civic-military parade in Caracas, held in commemoration of Independence Day.
Venezuela has been facing a wave of protests for more than three months, exacerbating socio-political tensions and provoking violent conflicts that have so far caused 91 deaths, hundreds of people injured and thousands arrested, according to data from the Public Prosecutor’s Office.