VENEZUELA – National Assembly stormed

Lawmakers beaten by mob

CARACAS – About 100 government supporters have burst into Venezuela’s opposition-controlled National Assembly, where they beat up several lawmakers.

Witnesses said the confrontation came after an assembly session to mark the country’s Independence Day.

Military police guarding the site stood by as intruders brandishing sticks and pipes broke through the gate, AFP said. The government vowed to investigate.

Hours later, 350 people were still besieged, the assembly’s speaker said.

Julio Borges said on Twitter that there were 108 journalists, as well as students and visitors, among those inside. Witnesses told Reuters news agency that some of the people were being allowed out.

Mr Borges also named five of the lawmakers injured. Some were taken away for medical treatment.

Venezuela has been shaken by often violent protests in recent months and is in economic crisis.

Government supporters hold a national flag while clashing with people outside the National Assembly, in Caracas, Venezuela.

“This does not hurt as much as seeing every day how we are losing our country,” deputy Armando Armas told reporters as he got into an ambulance, his head swathed in bloody bandages.

Witnesses said several journalists and two assembly staff were also hurt.

Venezuelan newspaper Tal Cual blamed the attack on militias known as “colectivos”, and said the group had fired rockets and bangers as they forced their way in.

Its report said some of the deputies attacked “fell to the ground and were kicked”.

Photos and videos circulating on social media showed victims of the assault with bleeding head wounds. At least one, believed to be deputy Americo De Grazia, was carried out on a stretcher.

AFP, whose journalists were at the scene, said reporters were ordered to leave by the attackers, one of whom had a gun.

The violence unfolded while President Nicolás Maduro was giving a speech at a government-planned Independence Day military parade elsewhere in the capital.

Before the intruders rushed the building, Vice-President Tareck El Aissami made an impromptu appearance in the congress with the head of the armed forces, Vladimir Padrino Lopez, and ministers.

Mr El Aissami gave a speech urging the president’s supporters to come to the legislature to show support for him.

A crowd had been rallying outside the building for several hours before breaking into the grounds.

In a statement via the ministry of communication, the government said it “condemns the alleged acts of violence in the gardens of the Federal Legislative Palace”.

“The national government has ordered the investigation of the aforementioned acts of violence to establish the whole truth, and on that basis, to apply sanctions to those responsible,” it said.

Venezuela’s National Assembly has been led by the opposition since elections in December 2015, and has become a focal point for critics of the president.

Anti-Maduro protesters have staged nationwide street protests against the government over the past three months which have seen violent clashes between demonstrators and the security forces.

At least 90 people have died in the bloodshed, with both political factions blaming each other.

Source: (BBC)

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