CARACAS, Venezuela — Seven Venezuelan military officers were killed on Saturday when their helicopter crashed while heading to a state where President Nicolás Maduro appeared alongside troops, days after the political opposition had called in vain for a military uprising.
The helicopter hurtled into a mountain outside Caracas in the early hours of an overcast day. An investigation was underway.The armed forces said in a statement that the copter was heading to San Carlos in Cojedes State, where Mr. Maduro appeared on Saturday at a military academy to oversee training exercises. It was an effort to demonstrate the armed forces’ loyalty to him after a small group of security forces turned against him earlier in the week in the failed attempt by the opposition leader, Juan Guaidó, to overthrow the government.
On board the helicopter were two lieutenant colonels as well as five lower-ranking officers. The statement did not say if the copter was part of the presidential delegation.The critical role of the Venezuelan military in the country’s political crisis was on display on Saturday as Mr. Maduro tried to portray strength by joining troops at the military academy while Mr. Guaidó attempted to woo the armed forces by urging supporters to take to the streets.
National television showed Mr. Maduro wearing a camouflage hat as he shook hands and exchanged fist bumps with security forces. He later watched troops engage in a shooting exercise.“Loyal forever,” Mr. Maduro bellowed to a crowd of cadets in green uniforms.For his part, Mr. Guaidó told backers to go to military garrisons to persuade forces to turn against Mr. Maduro, whose years in office have been marked by escalating hardship in a country that was once one of the wealthiest in Latin America.
Some demonstrators handed over printed documents to the police, saying the military’s role in helping Venezuela emerge from an “unsustainable” situation was vital. But the police burned the papers with a lighter.“They think it’s a joke. They don’t take us seriously. They’re not listening,” said one demonstrator, Andrea Palma.