CARACAS – After an hours-long siege of the opposition-controlled Venezuelan Parliament by groups loyal to the government, lawmakers, reporters and staff members were able to leave the building on Wednesday, although some complained that they were the victims of pushing and insults nearby.
The Parliament reported about 6 pm that 120 workers, 108 journalists and 94 opposition lawmakers had been “kidnapped by armed groups supporting the government” who had come to the site about 8 am.
Dozens of supporters of the country’s socialist Chavista government on Wednesday hurled stones and other objects inside the legislative chamber, injuring at least eight lawmakers and causing material damage.
About 30 armed members of groups backing the government of Nicolas Maduro burst into the opposition-controlled National Assembly and attacked several legislators.
“Emergency. Paramilitary groups enter the AN (Asamblea Nacional). Lawmakers wounded. In the photos @ArmandoArmas,” congressman Jose Manuel Olivares said in a Twitter post accompanied by images of Armas with a bloodied head.
Police assigned to the congressional security detail eventually expelled the intruders, but the government partisans continued to block the entrances and exits.
The invaders, many of them dressed in red and armed with poles and firecrackers, attacked just as the assembly was holding a ceremony to mark the 206th anniversary of Venezuelan independence.
Besides lawmakers, the assailants targeted journalists, including EFE photographer Cristian Hernandez, who had his equipment seized.
President Nicolas Maduro denounced the attack on the National Assembly and ordered an investigation.
“I absolutely condemn those deeds,” he said from the scene of a an independence-day parade in Caracas. “I condemn them and I have ordered that they be investigated and that justice be done.”
Despite the disruption, the opposition alliance that dominates congress managed to approve a bill mandating a July 16 referendum on Maduro’s plan to convene a Constituent Assembly with authority to overhaul the 1998 constitution.