CARACAS, Venezuela—A Venezuelan military helicopter crashed close to Caracas on Saturday morning, killing all seven people on board, Venezuela’s Nicolás Maduro and the Defense Ministry confirmed.
The helicopter was to fly from Caracas, the capital, to the west-central state of Cojedes when it “went to ground,” the Defense Ministry said in a statement, adding that authorities were investigating the cause of the crash.
Maduro was in Cojedes on Saturday to watch a series of army drills, which, in televised speeches, he said demonstrated Venezuela’s military readiness against what he called the “threat” posed by the United States.
Maduro accuses the U.S. government of trying to foment a “coup” against him by backing opposition leader Juan Guaidó, who denounces Maduro as an illegitimate president after Venezuela’s duly elected National Assembly voted him in mid-January following a fraudulent election.
The socialist South American country has spiraled into humanitarian, economic, and political chaos after Maduro refused to hand over control under mounting international pressure. Guaidó has since been recognized as Venezuela’s legitimate president by more than 50 nations.
“I profoundly regret this incident and express my heartfelt condolences to their relatives and friends,” Maduro said later on Twitter.