Explosions near Venezuelan legislature trigger panic

Members of the Bolivarian Intelligence Service walk outside the National Assembly in Caracas on January 26, 2016 (AFP Photo/Federico Parra)

Caracas (AFP) - Four explosions near the Venezuelan legislature triggered panic Tuesday but caused no injuries or damage.

The homemade explosive devices were apparently loaded with pamphlets that were sent flying into the air with propaganda purportedly written by a radical group loyal to late leftist president Hugo Chavez, whose party recently lost the legislature to the opposition.

The pamphlets, signed by a group called the Bolivarian Liberation Forces (FBL), criticized the government of Chavez's hand-picked successor, Nicolas Maduro, and called for a more radical response to the socialist party's rout in the December legislative polls.

"It is time for the revolution's base to take the government," said the message.

"Social conflict is what guarantees the continuity of the process of change launched by Comandante Chavez."

Three of the devices were detonated outside a shopping mall and the fourth on a street corner where the legislature's administrative offices are located, said the attorney general's office.

Witnesses said the explosions were nearly simultaneous and sent crowds of people running.

Majority leader Julio Borges blamed the explosions on "people close to the government or with the complicity of those in power who want to create... panic to drown out discussion on important issues."

Tensions have soared in Venezuela since the opposition won control of the National Assembly, propelled by widespread frustration with a painful economic crisis gripping the once-booming oil giant.

The elections broke the Chavez movement's monopoly on power for the first time since the leftist firebrand came to power in 1999.

Opposition lawmakers last week rejected Maduro's bid to decree a state of economic emergency to deal with triple-digit inflation and chronic shortages of basic goods.

Rumors of coup plots and counter-plots have swirled amid the crisis. The Venezuelan defense minister has vowed the army's "unconditional support" for Maduro.