The country's chief prosecutor, Tarek William Saab, says the two high-ranking military officers are suspected of participating in an attempt to assassinate President Nicolas Maduro in a drone blast earlier this month.

Handout picture released by the Venezuelan presidency showing Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro speaking during the broadcasting of a television programme, at the Miraflores presidential palace in Caracas on August 7, 2018.
Handout picture released by the Venezuelan presidency showing Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro speaking during the broadcasting of a television programme, at the Miraflores presidential palace in Caracas on August 7, 2018. (AFP)

Venezuela chief prosecutor, Tarek William Saab, said on Tuesday two high-ranking military officers were arrested for their alleged involvement in drone explosions during a speech by President Nicolas Maduro earlier this month.

The South American country's government has accused opposition politicians and anti-Maduro activists abroad of scheming to assassinate the leftist leader with the drones, which were laden with explosives, during a military parade.

Fourteen people, including a lawmaker and several young men, have been arrested, while another 20 suspects remain at large, including in neighbouring Colombia and the United States, according to authorities.

Saab said Colonel Pedro Zambrano and General Alejandro Perez had been presented in court on Monday.

"Let us remember that a number of those implicated are found on foreign soil.  Some are in Colombia, others in the United States," Saab said.  

"... we notified Interpol in record time, with a wealth of details, to capture these suspects, implicated in these abominable events that have been repudiated by the Venezuelan nation."

In this photo released by China's Xinhua News Agency, security personnel surround Venezuela's President Nicolas Maduro during an incident as he was giving a speech in Caracas, Venezuela, Saturday, Aug. 4, 2018. Drones armed with explosives detonated near Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro as he gave a speech to hundreds of soldiers in Caracas on Saturday but the socialist leader was unharmed, according to the government. (Xinhua via AP)
In this photo released by China's Xinhua News Agency, security personnel surround Venezuela's President Nicolas Maduro during an incident as he was giving a speech in Caracas, Venezuela, Saturday, Aug. 4, 2018. Drones armed with explosives detonated near Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro as he gave a speech to hundreds of soldiers in Caracas on Saturday but the socialist leader was unharmed, according to the government. (Xinhua via AP) (Xinhua / AP)

Massive anti-government protests

Further details were not immediately available about the detainees.

The Information Ministry, which handles media inquiries on behalf of the government, did not respond to a request for comment. 

The alleged involvement of military officials in the drone incident is notable in the convulsed oil-rich nation where the armed forces have long been power-brokers.

Open calls for military intervention have grown after massive anti-government protests last year failed to unseat Maduro and he was re-elected in a May vote widely decried as a sham.

Maduro blames US for 'economic war'

The government has said the drone attack was carried out by 11 hit men recruited during anti-Maduro demonstrations and trained across the porous border with Colombia.

Authorities have said financiers in Bogota and Florida promised the group $50 million and a stay in the United States in exchange for killing Maduro.

Maduro says his government is the victim of an "economic war" led by opposition activists with the help of Washington, and that the United States government is seeking to undermine him as it did in the past with other Latin American leftists.

Curbs to cheap gas

Maduro also announced that from now on Venezuela's dirt-cheap fuel will be available only to people with a special government aid card that the opposition has denounced as a tool for controlling people.

The government of the economically-ravaged country has for many years heavily subsidised petrol and Maduro says this has now led to a voracious black market in oil smuggled to neighbouring countries.

People who want to keep benefiting from subsidised gas prices in this oil-rich nation must register their vehicles by Friday using the so-called "carnet de la patria," or fatherland card, which provides access to government assistance.

"Anyone who does not respond to the call for this census, who does not wish to participate in the direct subsidy, will have to pay for gasoline at the international rate," Maduro said on Monday without specifying when this rate would kick in.

Gasoline is practically given away in Venezuela with the subsidy, meaning a single liter of gasoline costs a bolivar, which is next to nothing.

A dollar exchanged on the black market would buy nearly five million litres.

But at the international rate it is out of reach of most Venezuelans. 

With runaway inflation, their monthly wage is about a dollar, which hardly buys a kilo of chicken.

Low cost leading to trafficking 

Maduro said that the low cost of gasoline has spurred trafficking into Colombia, estimating that this amounts to a net loss for the country of $18 billion per year.

He said the new subsidy policy will work with the fatherland card system, which the Venezuelan opposition has denounced as a tool of political and social control.

The change comes as new currency notes with five fewer zeroes come into circulation on Monday.

Inflation is forecast by the IMF to hit a million percent this year.

Maduro said the new currency system will reactivate the economy.

Old currency notes and new ones will co-exist for an unspecified period of time.

Maduro said Monday would be a holiday so people can get used to the new notes.

UN says about 2.3 million flee Venezuela

Meanwhile, about 2.3 million Venezuelans have fled their crisis-hit country mainly because of a lack of food as severe shortages of medicine has left thousands at risk, the UN spokesman said on Tuesday.

The Venezuelans have fled to Colombia, Ecuador, Peru and Brazil.

"People cite the lack of food as their main reason for leaving," said UN spokesman Stephane Dujarric.

Source: TRTWorld and agencies