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Venezuela: Government Supporters Attack Opposition Lawmakers
Pro-government supporters storm the opposition-controlled legislature, injuring lawmakers, as Venezuela celebrates independence day.
Pro-government militias wielding wooden sticks and metal bars storm congress on July 5, 2017.
Tensions were already high after Vice President Tareck El Aissami made an unannounced morning visit to the National Assembly, accompanied by top government and military officials, for an event celebrating independence day.
The short appearance at the congress by top officials who have repeatedly dismissed the legislators as a band of U.S.-backed conspirators was seen by many as a provocation.
El Aissami said global powers are once again trying to subjugate Venezuela. "We still haven't finished definitively breaking the chains of the empire," he said, adding that President Nicolas Maduro's plans to rewrite the constitution — a move the opposition sees as a power-grab — offers Venezuela the best chance to be truly independent.
Female soldiers march during a military parade marking 206 years of Venezuela's declaration of independence from Spain.
After El Aissami left, dozens of government supporters set up a picket outside the building, heckling lawmakers with menacing chants.
People react as a firecracker explodes outside the National Assembly.
Government supporters invade the legislature.
Four lawmakers were injured.
ABOVE: Opposition lawmaker Luis Stefanelli, left, gestures next to fellow opposition lawmaker Leonardo Regnault.
Opposition lawmaker Luis Stefanelli, center, holds the injured government supporter.
Pro-government militias beat Deputy Armando Armas."This doesn't hurt as much as watching how every day how we lose a little bit more of our country," Arias said from inside an ambulance as he was being treated for head wounds that spilled blood across his clothes.
Deputy Americo De Grazia, center, is beaten by protesters outside the National Assembly.
De Grazia is led away by bodyguards.
De Grazia lies on an infirmary bed before being taken in a stretcher to an ambulance. He suffered from convulsions, said a fellow congressman.
Venezuelan Russian-made Mi-17 helicopters overfly a column of T-72B tanks during Wednesday's military parade.
Venezuela's President Nicolas Maduro and first lady Cilia Flores raise their fists during the military parade.
Maduro condemned the violence, but complained that the opposition doesn't do enough to control "terrorist attacks" committed against security forces by anti-government protesters.
"I will never be an accomplice to acts of violence," said Maduro during a speech at a military parade.
The clash followed Tuesday's appearance of a 5-minute video posted by a former police inspector who allegedly stole a helicopter and fired on two government buildings last week.