The head of Venezuela’s National Intelligence Services (Sebin), Miguel Rodriguez, revealed last Sunday further details of a plan by right-wing opposition activists to destabilize the nation’s political environment in an interview broadcast on the private television station Televen.
While appearing on the show Jose Vicente Today, Rodriguez described a plot uncovered by the Venezuelan government in May 2004 that involved a group of more than 100 Colombian paramilitaries training in the municipality of El Hatillo just outside Caracas with plans to attack the presidential palace of Miraﬂores and assassinate head of state Hugo Chavez.
The irregular groups, discovered in the estate of opposition extremist Roberto Alonso, were dressed as Venezuelan soldiers with the intention of propagating the idea that a domestic military insurrection was taking place in the country.
“After a long process of gathering intelligence, On May 9, 2004 in the early hours of the morning 116 Colombians were detained and later identiﬁed as paramilitaries brought to Venezuela with the intention of overthrowing the government and putting an end to the life of [President] Chavez. At that time we saw the real nature of the opposition that we’re onfronting.
Nobody thought it would arrive at such extremes”, the Sebin director said during the interview.
Rodriguez’s declarations come in the wake of recent allegations by former Venezuelan judge Eladio Aponte who, working with the Drug Enforcement Agency in the United States, accused the Venezuelan government of fabricating the entire 2004 incident as well as manipulating judicial outcomes in the country.
Aponte was dismissed as a Supreme Court Judge by theVenezuelan congress on March 20 for links to narco-trafﬁcking including assisting the drug lord Walid Makled in the illegal acquisition of an ofﬁcial government ID.
In April, Venezuelan Interior and Justice Minister Tareck El Aissami announced that the Chavez government had put out an international request for the arrest of Aponte who, according to the minister, “ﬂed because he was dismissed from his post in order to be brought to justice”.
The order for his arrest was ﬁnally made by Interpol on May 3, requiring “that the respective authorities of any country with knowledge that [Aponte] is present within its national territory must detain him immediately and turn him over to the Venezuelan judiciary”, El Aissami informed last week. Aponte is rumored to be in Miami, protected by the DEA.
Uribe’s Link to the Plot
According to Sebin Director Miguel Rodriguez, the plot uncovered by the Venezuelan government in 2004 reached as far as former Colombian President Alvaro Uribe who the security chief also accused of being linked to the drug trade and paramilitary activity.
“Alvaro Uribe surely had his hands involved in this operation... We’ve discussed this with the sources and informants that we have and we’ve evaluated the performance of [Colombia’s former Immigration Director] Jorge Noguera, a man very close to Uribe.
When we tie all the information together, we arrive at the conclusion that, with great certainness, Uribe knew of these plans”, Rodriguez said.
The Venezuelan ofﬁcial also revealed that the head of the paramilitaries found at the estate, Carlos Ayala, confessed to Sebin that he had worked directly with Venezuelan opposition politicians such as the ex-mayor of Caracas, Alfredo Peña, as well as ex-general Ovidio Poggioli Pérez.
Extremists Still Active
Rodriguez mentioned that many of the right-wing radicals involved in the 2004 conspiracy are still active in Venezuelan politics, some of who are current governors and congressmen in the country’s National Assembly.
In fact, it was the action of a group of conspirators including Henrique Capriles Radonski, Governor of Miranda state and current opposition candidate for presidential elections this October 7, who hampered the efforts of the national security forces in their intents to break up the plot.
“At that time, it was very difﬁcult for us to arrive at the site with greater speed because there was an inner-circle of protection that the police, commanded by the opposition, were providing... they sabotaged the intelligence work that we were doing to ﬁnd out the location of the paramilitaries”, the intelligence chief explained.
Although Rodriguez referred to the 2004 plan as “without precedent” and that the plot “surprised” the Sebin because of its scale and the levels of foreign involvement, such activity has been characteristic of the Venezuelan opposition.
In April 2002, the Venezuelan right-wing in collaboration with the private media and the US State Department carried out a violent coup d’état against the Chavez government which resulted in the death of more than a dozen innocent bystanders.
The failed coup was then followed later that same year by a management lock out of the oil industry which brought the Venezuelan economy to a standstill and forced widespread hardship upon the majority of the nation’s citizens.
In addition to these acts, opposition-aligned landowners in the Venezuelan countryside have also been employing contracted killers, many of Colombian origin, to assassinate small farmers involved in the Chavez administration’s far-reaching land reform program which seeks to redistribute fallow estates to agricultural workers.
It is also well known that the opposition-controlled border states of Tachira and Zulia are all but overrun by Colombian paramilitaries linked to drug-trafficking and other forms of contraband.
On Sunday, Director Rodriguez warned that many of these extremist elements are currently working to sow panic and chaos in the population during the nation’s presidential elections, slated for October 7.
“We are carrying out our mission to detect threats against the state. The opposition that we’re up against has a group of radicals that think of violent solutions at the margin of the constitution. But these groups have not had the support of the people nor the military”, he stated.