Venezuela said it foiled a mercenary invasion by “terrorists” who attempted to enter the country on speedboats from neighbouring Colombia.
According to the country’s interior minister, Nestor Reverol, the mercenaries landed early on Sunday on the coast of La Guaira, about 20 miles (32 km) from the capital Caracas.
“They tried to carry out an invasion by sea, a group of terrorist mercenaries from Colombia, in order to commit terrorist acts in the country, murdering leaders of the revolutionary government,” Reverol said in a telecast.
Socialist Party leader Diosdado Cabello said eight people were killed and two detained.
Defense Minister Vladimir Padrino said one of the speedboats had sunk, and that military vessels were searching the coast for survivors.
However, opposition leaders dismissed the plot as a staged incident.
President Nicolas Maduro frequently accuses political adversaries of attempting to overthrow him with the backing of Washington, which has vowed to force him from office through sanctions that have crippled the OPEC nation’s oil exports.
Critics of the ruling Socialist Party often dismiss such accusations as stunts used as an excuse to detain opponents of the government.
Opposition leader Juan Guaido said the government was seeking to distract from recent violent events including a deadly prison riot on Friday and bloody Caracas gang battle on Saturday night.
The assertions by Maduro’s government of Colombian involvement were “unfounded”, Colombia’s foreign ministry said in a statement.
It said it was an attempt to distract attention from “the true problems that the Venezuelan people are living.”
Maduro has overseen a six-year economic crisis that has left many citizens unable to obtain basic food and medicine and forced nearly five million people to emigrate.
The United States and dozens of other countries disavowed Maduro after his disputed 2018 election, which they claimed was rigged.
They instead recognize Guaido, who is head of the country’s legislature.
But Maduro retains the backing of the country’s armed forces as well as countries including China and Russia, which have harshly criticised the U.S. sanctions.