The headquarters of the Venezuelan government’s housing mission and an adjacent pre-school have been attacked by anti-government groups, according to authorities.
Over one thousand workers were evacuated from the housing mission’smain offices, after the building was engulfed in flames on Tuesday afternoon.
The building is located in the Chacao municipality of Caracas, where anti-government blockades and protests have been a regular affair since mid February.
According to Minister for Housing Ricardo Molina, the blaze started after a “group of terrorists attacked the front of the building, breaking the windows”.
The attackers then “threw petrol bombs and set fire to the building”, the minister told state broadcaster VTV.
“Our workers were at risk of dying…which shows the level of insanity and fascism that these violent groups have reached,” Molina stated.
In the early evening Vice President Jorge Arreaza announced that the fire had been brought under control by the fire fighters and the National Guard (GNB).
Among the evacuees were 89 children from an adjacent pre-school, used by government workers. Arreaza stated that the children were aged between 6 months and three years of age.
The vice president labelled the attackers “guarimberos”, a term which refers to those creating disturbances, and is currently used to describe opposition groups who have erected barricades in the streets of at least six of Venezuela’s major cities in the last two months.
The GNB has made 27 arrests in connection to the attack. While announcing the arrests, GNB Regional Command head Manuel Quevedo slammed Caracas police for “complete absence” in neighbourhoods where the arrests were made by soldiers.
“In the cases of Baruta and Chacao municipalities, there is no authority, violent [people] stroll about comfortably … [including] the same people that we have fully identified at the site of the act,” Quevedo stated.
The Attorney General’s office and the criminal investigation body CICPC are conducting further investigations, according to Quevedo.
“These are people who want to create a feeling of chaos in Caracas,” Quevedo stated.
The housing missionis one of the Venezuelan government’s largest social projects. Launched in 2011, the mission aims to construct 3 million homes by 2019. Venezuelans living below minimum wage are eligible to receive free housing under the mission, while low income families receive heavy government subsidies for the homes.
The housing minister stated that preliminary estimates of damages from Tuesday’s attack equal the construction costs of 190 housing units.
On Tuesday night, President Nicolas Maduro condemned the attack, and called on opposition political parties to engage in peace talks.
“Those who want peace are willing to talk any day, any time,” Maduro stated.