Venezuela's Maduro rallies supporters after drone blasts

Members of the media circulate outside an apartment complex where an allegedly armed drone crashed Saturday in Caracas interrupting President Nicolas Maduro's speech

Maduro escaped unharmed from an attempted attack of explosive drones on Saturday night during his speech to commemorate the 81st anniversary of the country's National Guard.

Venezuelan authorities said on Sunday they have detained six people over drone explosions the day before at a rally led by President Nicolas Maduro, as his critics warned the socialist leader would use the incident to crack down on adversaries.

The munitions have potential to cause damage in a radius of 50 metres, and intelligence services identified the nearby streets that were used for launching the drones from a distance. Preliminary investigations have indicated to us that there are various financial backers of this attempt on my life. "Monday of popular march in support of our president and in repudiation of the failed assassination attempt that sought to plunge us into a spiral of violence", he said on Twitter. One of the drones was said to explode above the President while the other was set to blow up directly in front of him, according to interior minister Nestor Reverol. He added that if Venezuela had any hard information of United States involvement the administration would "take a serious look at it".

Patricia Andrade, executive director of the human rights organization Venezuela Awareness Foundation, said Maduro's government takes advantage of any excuse to stop the opposition and dig in its heels.

That is consistent with the shadowy group that claimed responsibility for the attack, The National Movement of Soldiers in T-Shirts, whose website says it was created in 2014 to bring together different groups of protesters. Maduro fumed hours later, as he blamed the incident on Colombia´s outgoing President Juan Manuel Santos and financiers in the United States.

Santos, a Nobel Peace Prize victor who negotiated a historic peace accord with Marxist guerrillas FARC, is due to hand over power to the hardline right-wing Ivan Duque, a vocal critic of Venezuela's regime, on Tuesday.

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Maduro is deeply unpopular because of Venezuela's collapsed economy, hyperinflation that could reach 1 million percent this year and his autocratic style of governing. Under Maduro - who has been in power since the 2013 death of his predecessor, Hugo Chavez - Venezuela has been in a near constant state of crisis.

The Colombian foreign ministry denied involvement, saying the allegations were "absurd" and "lacked any foundation".

The thwarted attack comes as Venezuela is reeling from a worsening economic and humanitarian crisis and Maduro has grown increasingly isolated.

Washington Office on Latin America regional expert David Smilde told the AP initial signs were that the attack was not staged, because the images of Venezuelan soldiers running for cover and Maduro being swarmed by bodyguards made his already unpopular government look weak.

He was referring to May's presidential elections, where Mr Maduro was re-elected for another six-year term.

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