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Venezuela gov’t backers beat opposition lawmakers in congress

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By Agence France-Presse

Venezuelan pro-government activists wielding sticks and pipes stormed onto the grounds of the opposition-held National Assembly Wednesday and beat lawmakers, leaving at least five hurt including three with blood streaming from their heads.

The armed group broke through the gates of the only state institution still nominally controlled by the opposition, in another episode of political violence following three months of chaos in the oil-rich but now poverty-stricken country.

Supporters of Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro stand at the gate of the National Assembly building in Caracas before storming it on July 5, 2017 as opposition deputies hold a special session on Independence Day. (AFP PHOTO / Juan BARRETO / MANIILA BULLETIN)

Supporters of Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro stand at the gate of the National Assembly building in Caracas before storming it on July 5, 2017 as opposition deputies hold a special session on Independence Day.
(AFP PHOTO / Juan BARRETO / MANIILA BULLETIN)

The attackers were supporting President Nicolas Maduro, who faces opposition demands for elections to remove him from office — though he promptly denounced the violence.

Military police guarding the site stood by as about 100 intruders brandishing sticks and pipes broke through the front gate of the National Assembly and into the interior gardens, AFP reporters observed.

The mob reached as far as the corridors of the congressional building, striking and injuring lawmakers.

The attackers, one of them holding a gun, ordered journalists to leave the premises.

The speaker of the assembly, Julio Borges, in a Twitter message named five lawmakers he said were hurt in the violence. Some were taken away for medical treatment.

“This does not hurt as much as seeing every day how we are losing our country,” one of them, Armando Armas, told reporters as he got into an ambulance with his head wrapped in bloodied bandages.

Deputies also said that two employees of the assembly were hurt.

“I absolutely condemn these deeds. I will never be complicit in any act of violence,” Maduro said in a speech at a military parade in Caracas. He did not acknowledge that those who stormed congress were supporters of his side.

“I have ordered an investigation, and may justice be done.”

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