Onslaught of bomb threats, one explosion, alarm Venezuelans
CARACAS, Venezuela (AP) -- A recent explosion in a Caracas
church has heightened alarm over a series of bomb threats in
Venezuela's capital, where terrorism is an unfamiliar problem.
Last week's bomb injured a 25-year-old woman and destroyed a
confessional in a colonial church in downtown Caracas. On Friday, police
deactivated a bomb in the Caracas home of former Venezuelan President
Carlos Andres Perez.
Police have discovered dozens of explosive devices in subway stations,
schools, restaurants and street corners in the capital in recent months. The
incidents are adding a new sense of insecurity in a city already grappling
with a crime rate that claims dozens of lives each week.
"Of course we're scared. This is a country with a lot of unemployment and
poverty. There are a lot of frustrated people who are bored and have nothing to
do but cause trouble," said Miranda Gonzales, a Caracas secretary.
Venezuela has had its share of civil and military unrest but terrorism
problem most associate with other countries, such as its war-torn
Police have not made any arrests or named any suspects in the incidents.
vow to capture those responsible, but Venezuelans are getting impatient with the
lack of progress.
"I can't believe that we are so incompetent that we have not captured even
person behind the incidents," said Greater Caracas Mayor Alfredo Pena on
Police dismissed Pena's remarks, insisting that investigations are advancing.
"Politicians have their own interests that don't always have the best intentions,"
said Miguel Dao, chief of the Technical Investigative Police, Venezuela
equivalent to the FBI.
The Catholic Church temporarily closed eight churches after the explosion.
Thursday, a priest alerted the police after finding a black bag under a church
bench that turned out to only contain batteries and cables.
The same day, police deactivated explosive devices in a metro station and
Interior Minister Luis Miquilena dismissed the anxiety as "exaggerated."
government deployed the National Guard to protect several churches.
"The government is using all of its security and intelligence resources
to put a
stop to this and detain those responsible," said Defense Minister Jose Vicente
Rangel on Friday.
Officials claim the bomb threats are part of a growing conspiracy to destabilize
President Hugo Chavez's government. Chavez has said the same thing about
accusations that he helped hide former Peruvian spymaster Vladimiro
Dao suggested that someone is trying to create friction between the government
and the Catholic Church. Chavez has clashed with Catholic leaders who have
criticized his leftist "revolution" to reform what he says was an elitist and
corrupt political system.
"There has to be a political interest. It can't be explained in any other
Copyright 2001 The Associated Press.