efe-epaCaracas

The opposition-controlled Venezuelan National Assembly's administrative building was closed on Thursday due to concerns that a bomb had been planted in the structure, marking the second such incident this week, a public affairs officer said.

An employee found a suspicious briefcase on the second level of the office building's basement, prompting officials to close the building, which is known as Pajaritos and is a short distance from the assembly's seat.

On Tuesday, the Federal Legislative Palace, where lawmakers meet and located meters from the administrative building, received a bomb threat.

"Pajaritos is closed due to presumed explosive device behind a writing desk. Awaiting the Sebin (Bolivarian Intelligence Service)," the public affairs officer told reporters.

The National Assembly confirmed the incident in a Twitter post without providing additional details.

An EFE reporter saw workers leaving the administrative building and waiting for the bomb squad to arrive.

This is the second bomb threat at the National Assembly this week and the third this year.

In January, a bomb threat was received at the start of the legislative session and lawmakers were forced to cancel Tuesday's session.

National Assembly Speaker Juan Guaido, who is recognized as Venezuela's interim president by more than 50 countries, said Tuesday that the police presence at the Federal Legislative Palace amounted to a "kidnapping" of the legislative branch and warned that lawmakers would meet wherever they had to.

Lawmakers met at the palace on Wednesday without any problems and accused the administration of Nicolas Maduro of "harassment" of the legislative branch.

The crisis in Venezuela, which has been dealing with shortages of basic goods and medicines, as well as hyperinflation, the collapse of the manufacturing sector and a wave of violence and crime that have left more than 20,000 dead, was exacerbated by the start of Maduro's second term in January and Guaido's move to take over the interim presidency.

The South American country is dealing with the fallout from a failed military coup against Maduro and the imposition of sanctions on high-level officials by the US government, which said all options were on the table for removing Maduro from office.

Millions of Venezuelans have fled the country in recent years amid the internal conflict, a situation that the United Nations has called one of the largest migratory crises in the Americas in decades.

rgc/hv