Venezuela officials say ex-general, 13 others in coup plot

Author: Associated Press

CARACAS, Venezuela (AP) – Venezuelan officials Friday cheered the thwarting of what they said was a planned coup that involved a plot to blow up the presidential palace.

President Nicolas Maduro announced Thursday night that a retired air force general had been arrested and 13 other people are implicated in a plot to overthrow the South American country’s 15 year-old socialist revolution.

“We have foiled a coup attempt against democracy and the stability of our homeland,” Maduro said, speaking on the anniversary of the massive street protests which wracked the nation last year.

Congress president Diosdado Cabello said in a television broadcast later that 11 soldiers were among those implicated, including a retired general, and said several have been arrested. He also named two opposition politicians and a businessman as plotters.

Cabello showed photos of weaponry and other items he said had been seized from those implicated. In addition to the palace, officials said the plotters planned to bomb the Defense Ministry and the headquarters of the government-sponsored news channel Telesur.

Opposition coalition spokesman Jesus Torrealba rejected the accusations Friday.

“The government makes up these stories about coups to avoid talking about how the country is breaking down,” he told a group of journalists.

Venezuela’s government has frequently alleged coup plots, often without providing much evidence or follow up.

A study by the Caracas-based newspaper Ultimas Noticias counted 63 alleged assassination plots between when late President Hugo Chavez took office in 1999 and his death in 2013. President Nicolas Maduro’s government has denounced more than a dozen purported plots since coming to power 15 months ago.

Last spring, Maduro announced that three air force generals had been arrested after they were discovered plotting with opposition politicians to overthrow the government. Officials have said nothing about the case since.

The most serious recent allegations came in late May, as authorities tried to mop up dissent that led to a three-month wave of deadly anti-government protests. Top officials delivered an hours-long presentation in which they accused a handful of opposition leaders of working with the U.S. ambassador in neighboring Colombia to “annihilate” Maduro.

Those who believe the government are a quick to recall Washington’s endorsement of a coup that toppled Chavez for two days in 2002.

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