CARACAS, Venezuela – Two powerful explosions damaged the Spanish embassy and the Colombian consulate minutes apart in the Venezuelan capital early Tuesday, injuring four people and raising tensions in a city still recovering from an anti-government strike.
The blasts twisted the steel gates of the buildings and blew out windows in residences almost a block away. Leaflets supporting President Hugo Chavez were found outside the Spanish Embassy.
"We believe these were very potent bombs judging by the damage done," said the mayor of Caracas' Chacao district, Leopoldo Lopez.
The first blast was outside the Spanish embassy in eastern Caracas at about 2 a.m. The second explosion, 15 minutes later, rocked the Colombian consulate. The blasts slightly injured four people, including a night watchman, Lopez said.
Chacao police chief Leonardo Diaz said there was a "direct relation" between the blasts, which came two days after Chavez warned Colombia and Spain not to meddle in Venezuela's domestic affairs.
Both nations had expressed concern over the arrest of opposition leader Carlos Fernandez, who was arrested last week for his role in leading a two-month general strike against Chavez.
The strike, which ended Feb. 4 in all but the oil industry, brought Venezuela's economy to a virtual standstill and crippled oil production. Opposition leaders staged the protests in a bid to force Chavez to step down or hold early elections.
Federal agents are hunting for another opposition leader, labor boss Carlos Ortega, who is also wanted for alleged crimes linked to the work stoppage.
Venezuelan Deputy Foreign Minister Arevalo Mendez said the government would investigate the attacks and bring those responsible to justice. No arrests had been made.
Ruling party lawmaker Tarek Saab denied Chavez's government was involved calling the attacks "reprehensible." "We would never encourage any actions like this," Saab said.
A statement issued by the Colombian Embassy said the government "rejects any manifestation of violence or terrorism."
Manuel Viturro de La Torre, Spain's ambassador to Venezuela, said relations between Spain and Venezuela remain "excellent."
Chavez responded angrily Sunday to foreign critics of the charges against the two strike leaders. He directed warnings at some members of a "Group of Friends" initiative created to bolster the negotiating process.
"Don't mess with our affairs!" Chavez said, singling out Cesar Gaviria, secretary general of the Organization of American States, the United States, Spain and Colombia.
On Monday, opposition representatives sent a letter to Brazilian Foreign Minister Celso Amorim, coordinator of the "Friends" group, calling for an urgent meeting to discuss "the worsening of the Venezuelan situation."
The opposition says Chavez has ruined the economy and is amassing power in his own hands. Chavez accuses his critics of trying to spark a coup.
Negotiations between the government and the opposition were suspended last week because Gaviria had commitments abroad but are to resume Wednesday.