It was being widely reported last night that Venezuela’s socialist dictator Nicolas Maduro was the target of an attempted assassination. It took place in the midst of a massive military parade in the center of Caracas and was allegedly conducted using drones with explosive charges attached to them. A highly disturbing event if true, and the initial reporting, with scenes of people screaming and fleeing the area, made it clear that something had happened. (Reuters)

A broadcast by Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro was cut short during an outdoor speech at a military event on Saturday and soldiers were seen running before the televised transmission was cut off. While Maduro was speaking about Venezuela’s economy, the audio suddenly went. He and others on the podium suddenly looked up, looking startled.

The camera then panned to scores of soldiers who started running, before the transmission was cut.

Funny how the state-operated news feed cut off in a matter of seconds rather than continuing to roll, isn’t it? We can leave aside, for now, the question of why any elected leader would be holding a massive, expensive military parade when over half of his country is literally starving. Following the commotion, Maduro was back on television in only a couple of hours, not only assuring everyone that he was just fine but saying that everything points to a right-wing plot originating in Colombia. He also blamed the United States (of course). But before we take the official socialist party line at face value, let’s have a good look at the attack in this video posted by The Guardian. You tell me whether Maduro looks genuinely alarmed as if his life is in danger or if this might have been (as some observers are already speculating) a staged attack.

Yeah, the soldiers in the parade definitely looked surprised. But even if this was staged nobody would have told all of them about it. The few relatively minor injuries to soldiers which took place are no doubt regarded as unfortunate, but it also makes the attack look more legitimate. (Hey… if you’re making an omelet you’ve got to crack a few eggs.) While Maduro is speaking we hear a couple of muffled “bang” sounds which, assuming they were anywhere near the podium, might not have been any bigger than a Fourth of July cherry bomb.

Also, you can get a fairly sophisticated drone with onboard cameras pretty cheaply these days. They move fast and a decent pilot (including kids) can get to a target in a very short time. How did they miss this badly? If this was an actual assassination attempt it was done by the Gang That Couldn’t Shoot Straight. But hey… we just don’t know. Perhaps we’ll never know.

If this was fake, however, there’s certainly good reason for it. To say that Venezuela is in the midst of a crisis is an understatement. The country has almost entirely collapsed, with an inflation rate approaching one million percent, a general lack of food, medicine and basic necessities, and unrest everywhere. As any good dictator knows, the best way to cement your position and regain at least some trust from your people is to create an external enemy. Maduro’s predecessor, Hugo Chavez, was a master of this tactic, making George W. Bush and the United States out to be the devil, constantly plotting against him. Asking whether Maduro might have staged an inept drone strike against himself to create this illusion is not an entirely crazy theory.

It’s also not the first time such suspicions have been raised. There are lingering questions about that coup in Turkey back in 2016 which vaulted Recep Tayyip Erdogan into a position of centralized, absolute power, allowing him to eliminate most of his political enemies. If you look at the timeline of events in the Turkish coup, that was a military uprising which launched at approximately 7:30 pm local time on Friday, July 15th, sputtered and had completely ended by half past noon the following day, with the nation’s airports back in full service and order restored. How did the masterminds behind the supposed plot think they had sufficient control of the military to pull that off when almost none of their fellow soldiers stood with them? And Erdogan was able to “identify” and arrest an awful lot of people in a twelve hour period to put down “the rebellion.”

Nothing here is definitive, but let’s just say this Venezuelan “assassination attempt” looks rather suspicious to say the least.