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Venezuela Crisis: Pro-Maduro Groups Storm Congress, Injure Lawmakers

by Natalie Valdés and Mariana Atencio /  / Updated  / Source: Associated Press
Venezuelan Deputies Luis Stefanelli (L) and Jose Regnault (R) stand in a corridor of the National Assembly after a clash with demonstrators in Caracas, Venezuela, on July 5, 2017.MIGUEL GUTIERREZ / EPA
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Pro-government militia groups burst into Venezuela’s opposition-led Congress on Wednesday while it was in a special session discussing President Nicolas Maduro’s constitutional overhaul.

Images of bloody congressmen, explosions, and bullet holes through glass windows of the National Assembly building have emerged. Julio Borges, president of the National Assembly, took to Twitter to name the five politicians injured in today’s attack: Armando Armas, Americo De Grazia, Nora Bracho, Luis Carlos Padilla, and Leonardo Regnault.

PHOTOS: Maduro Backers in Venezuela Attack Opposition Lawmakers

Maduro, during a speech at a military parade, condemned the violence, saying he would never be an "accomplice" to acts of violence, but said the opposition does not do enough to control the "terrorist attacks" against security forces, according to the Associated Press.

NBC News' Mariana Atencio spoke to Congressman Winston Flores who was trapped inside the building while it was “besieged by violent paramilitary troops,” according to him. Trapped inside, he said, were “lawmakers, journalists and workers.”

Venezuela National Assembly’s verified twitter account confirmed there were 120 employees, 108 journalists, and 94 congressman “sequestered” inside the building.

Venezuelan Deputies Luis Stefanelli (L) and Jose Regnault (R) stand in a corridor of the National Assembly after a clash with demonstrators in Caracas, Venezuela, on July 5, 2017.MIGUEL GUTIERREZ / EPA

Flores told NBC News that another congressman, Americo de Grazia was injured in the attack. “He has injuries in his head, neck and fractured ribs.”

According to Flores, De Grazia was admitted to a local hospital in Caracas.

The attack happened in plain view of national guardsmen assigned to protect the legislature after three months of violent clashes between government security forces and opposition protesters. Over 70 people have died in recent protests and thousands have been arrested.

Government supporters break into Venezuelan Parliament and wound deputies on July 5, 2017.MIGUEL GUTIERREZ / EPA

"This doesn't hurt as much as watching how every day how we lose a little bit more of our country," pro-opposition politician Armando Arias said from inside an ambulance as he was being treated for head wounds that spilled blood across his clothes, reported the AP.

Colombian President Juan Manuel Santos issued a statement about Wednesday's actions via Twitter.

“We condemn the acts of violence at the National Assembly in Caracas. We reiterate the urgent call for a peaceful and negotiated solution,” said Santos on Twitter.

Panama’s Ministry of Exterior Relations also issued a statement about the attacks, reiterating the urgency to establish an electoral calendar that will put an end to the current crisis. The Panamanian Government is also calling for “the strictest respect of democratic principles.” Argentina and Mexico also condemned the events on social media.

Demonstrators storm the National Assembly building in Caracas, Venezuela, on July 5, 2017. MIGUEL GUTIERREZ / EPA

The opposition is calling for free and fair elections and the release of political prisoners including Leopoldo Lopez.

The attack took place on Venezuela's Independence Day today. Flores, one of the most vocal opposition figures in Venezuela’s parliament, vowed that they would continue to “fight for their country and for a free Venezuela with their heads held high.”

Despite the violence, lawmakers approved a plan by the opposition to hold a symbolic referendum on July 16 that would give voters the chance to reject Maduro's plans to draft a new political charter.

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