In the wake of a helicopter attack on Venezuela’s Supreme Court building in Caracas on Tuesday evening, the identity of the pilot has raised a number of questions regarding the nature of the incident. Shortly following the attack, photos of the pilot in a blue helicopter carrying a banner with the word “Libertad,” or “Freedom,” appeared on social media, signaling an act of public opposition toward the government of Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro. But details concerning the pilot’s background and occupation have since complicated the narrative.
On Tuesday, the Venezuelan daily newspaper El Nacional identified the attacker as 36-year-old Oscar Pérez, a former captain of the CICPC, Venezuela’s largest national police agency. Around the same time, a video of Pérez flanked by masked men carrying what appear to be assault rifles surfaced online. In the video, Pérez claims to represent “a [nonpartisan] coalition of military employees, policemen, and civilians” who oppose the Maduro regime. His motive for the attack, he said, was to encourage citizens to resist the “impunity” and “tyranny” of the Venezuelan government.
Venezuela is currently suffering from a bout of violent anti-government protests that have led to at least 76 deaths and thousands of injuries since April. Protesters accuse Maduro of carrying out an authoritarian regime by jailing opposition leaders, censoring certain news outlets, and attempting to rewrite the nation’s constitution for political gains. In Tuesday’s video, Pérez directly referenced the plight of Venezuelan protesters, calling out “the deaths of young people who are fighting for their legitimate rights.” Pérez also claimed to be rallying against hunger, referring to the nation’s humanitarian crisis, which has resulted in dire food shortages.