New Evidence Links Ledezma, COPEI to Thwarted Coup
Caracas, February 26, 2015 (Venezuelanalysis.com) – Speaking on his television program "Con el Mazo Dando", National Assembly President Diosdado Cabello released new evidence on Wednesday regarding the thwarted "Blue Coup" attempt against the government of Nicolas Maduro on February 12.
Coming in the wake of the arrest of Antonio Ledezma last Thursday on charges of sedition and conspiracy, these revelations could lend further support to allegations concerning both the Caracas Metropolitan Mayor's role in the coup as well as the advance knowledge and involvement of the opposition party COPEI.
A stash of weapons, including explosives, was also discovered at the political party's Caracas headquarters on Tuesday.
Ledezma Linked to Coup Plotters Via U.S. Phone Number
According to Cabello, Ledezma allegedly made three phone calls in December to a New York-based number belonging jointly to General Eduardo Báez Torrealba (alias "Máximo") and Carlos Manuel Osuna Saraco (alias "Guillermo"), the latter of whom is believed to be the "financier" of the coup plot.
In a two week period spanning from the 25th of December to the 10th of January, Lieutenant Henry Salazar Moncada, who has been arrested and formally charged for his role in the coup attempt, also made three separate phone calls to the same U.S. number.
"The evidence is notorious. The proof is extremely clear [...] It's a coup, and as President Nicolas Maduro said, there are very few opposition leaders who didn't know anything [about the coup]," announced the President of the National Assembly.
Antonio Ledezma was one of three signatories of a public statement by leaders of the Venezuelan opposition calling for the ouster of President Nicolas Maduro as part of a "national transition", which was released just 24 hours prior to the coup attempt.
The other signatories were multi-millionaire former legislator Maria Corina Machado, whose various NGOs have received millions in funding from the U.S. government, and Voluntad Popular leader Leopoldo Lopez, who currently awaits trial for his role in leading violent opposition protests last year that took the lives of 43 people.
Ledezma has also been linked to extreme right-wing opposition figures such as Lorent Gómez Saleh, who was extradited from Colombia and charged with allegedly conspiring with paramilitaries to launch terrorist attacks as part of a campaign of so-called "resistance" against the Venezuelan government.
COPEI Leaders Discuss Links to Military Officials "Preparing How to Do the Transition"
On his program on Wednesday night, Cabello also presented a recording of an alleged phone call between the first COPEI vice-president for Lara State, Jose Cassany, and another top party official by the name of Antonio Sotillo in which the two christian democrats appear to discuss preparations for a coup.
In a conversation recorded on January 3 of this year, Cassany informs Sotillo that he is friends with a businessman who has a relationship "with the civil and military worlds, active military [officials], including generals."
He added that these military officials were "preparing how to carry out the transition".
In another alleged phone recording highlighted by the President of the National Assembly, the Caracas president of COPEI Antonio Ecarri and the secretary general Rogelio Diaz consider the option of a coup against President Nicolas Maduro.
In a recording dated February 21, Ecarri asks Diaz if he received the message from national secretary general Herberto Diaz and goes on to state,
"One cannot have a double position in life, if you are going to abandon the electoral field, you are going to call openly for a coup and everything else, that's fine, that is a path [...] I say we must look for a different mechanism."
Diaz agrees with Ecarri's affirmation that while a coup represents a legitimate "path", a "different mechanism" is needed, adding that otherwise, "we put everything on the table and they put us in jail.
The conversation ends with the two leaders agreeing on the need to "promote street activity".
Nonetheless, since February 2014, opposition "street activity" has largely taken the form of violent protests, which resulted in the death of 43 people last year as well as millions of dollars in damages to public property.
On Tuesday, Public Ministry officials discovered a weapons cache at COPEI headquarters in Las Palmas, Caracas. Among the weapons found were 52 homemade explosive devices resembling a type of grenade, 32 molotov cocktails, and four gas masks.
Officials also discovered various pamphlets with messages expressing support for Metropolitan Mayor Antonio Ledezma in the wake of his arrest on charges of conspiracy and sedition.
Air Force Officer's Confession Confirms Coup Plot to Bomb Military and Civilian Targets
In the same program on Wednesday, Diosdado Cabello also unveiled a recording of the alleged confession of First Lieutenant Luis Lugo Calderón, revealing further details regarding the thwarted coup effort earlier this month.
During his interrogation, the Air Force Lieutenant confirmed the existence of a video intended to be the "preamble" to the coup, "calling on the superior officers to wake up, asking for the renunciation of the President of the Republic, and saying that the lower officers were against the government."
Lugo further elaborated that the video was to be disseminated outside the country by the Miami-based journalist Patricia Poleo around the time of Carnival, when vast numbers of Venezuelans travel to the beach and other parts of the country.
The officer also substantiated allegations that coup plotters intended to use a "Super Tucano" counter-insurgency aircraft to bomb numerous ground targets such as the Miraflores Palace, teleSur, and the Ministry of Defense.
Identifying himself as the intended pilot of the military aircraft, he added that among the targets were air force bases located in highly populated cities, including the La Carlota base in the wealthy Caracas neighborhood of Chacao as well as the the Sucre base in the city of Maracay in Aragua State.
Furthermore, the Lieutenant indicated that he had been approached by an official from the British embassy with an offer of asylum in the event that the coup failed, though he did not give further details.
Published on Feb 27th 2015 at 2.04am
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