Pipe-wielding government supporters burst into Venezuela's opposition-controlled congress on Wednesday, witnesses said, attacking and besieging lawmakers in the latest flare-up of violence during a political crisis.
The melee, which injured seven opposition politicians, was another worrying flashpoint in a traumatic last three months for the South American OPEC nation, shaken by opposition protests against socialist President Nicolas Maduro.
At least 90 people have died in the unrest, with fighting and barricades frequently blocking cities across Venezuela.
National Assembly president Julio Borges said more than 350 politicians, journalists and guests to the Independence Day session were trapped in the siege that lasted until dusk.
"There are bullets, cars destroyed including mine, blood stains around the (congress) palace," he told reporters. "The violence in Venezuela has a name and surname: Nicolas Maduro."
The crowd had gathered just after dawn outside the building in downtown Caracas, chanting in favor of Maduro, witnesses said. In the late morning, several dozen people ran past the gates with pipes, sticks and stones and went on the attack.
Several injured lawmakers stumbled bloodied and dazed around the assembly's corridors. Some journalists were robbed.
After the morning attack, a crowd of roughly 100 people, many dressed in red and shouting "Long Live The Revolution!", trapped people inside for hours, witnesses said.
Some in the crowd outside the legislature brandished pistols, threatened to cut water and power supplies, and played an audio of former socialist president Hugo Chavez saying "Tremble, oligarchy!" Fireworks were thrown inside.
The worst-hurt lawmaker, Americo De Grazia, was hit on the head, fell unconscious, and was eventually taken by stretcher to an ambulance. His family later said he was out of critical condition and being stitched up.
Downtown Caracas is a traditional stronghold neighborhood for the government and there has been a string of clashes there since the opposition thrashed the ruling Socialist Party in December 2015 parliamentary elections.
In a speech during a military parade for Independence Day, Maduro condemned the "strange" violence in the assembly and asked for an investigation. But he also challenged the opposition to speak out about violence from within its ranks.
In daily protests since April, young demonstrators have frequently attacked security forces with stones, homemade mortars and Molotov cocktails, and burned property. They killed one man by dousing him in gasoline and setting him on fire.
"I want peace for Venezuela," Maduro said. "I don't accept violence from anyone."
Sources : reuters
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