25th March 2014 - Venezuelan president Nicolas Maduro announced today that three generals of the Venezuelan Air Force have been arrested, after they were denounced by lower-ranking officials for their involvement in alleged coup plans.
“Last night we captured three Air Force generals that we had been investigating thanks to the powerful moral force of our National Bolivarian Armed Forces: three generals that aimed to rise the Air Force against the legitimately constituted government,” he said during a live broadcast on state TV.
Maduro argued that those arrested “have direct links with the opposition, and said that this week was decisive”. According to the president, the alleged coup plot involves creating “psychological” chaos through attacking electricity and other services, and then striking against the government. The three generals are now under custody and will face an investigation.
The announcement was made on the same day that foreign ministers of the Union of South American Nations (UNASUR) arrive in the country to support dialogue efforts between the government and opposition.
Venezuela has been subject to a wave of opposition protests, riots and roadblocks since early February. The violence has left 35 dead, including National Guard officers, opposition activists and government supporters. Several hard-line opposition leaders openly call for the government’s resignation.
In his speech Maduro asked the country and UNASUR to support the Truth Commission established by the National Assembly last week to investigate the recent acts of violence. Opposition parliamentarians have not yet decided if they will participate in the commission, which would have five pro-government and four opposition legislators as members.
It remains to be seen whether the presence of UNASUR ministers will encourage the opposition to join peace talks, which have been underway between the government and business, religious, and a few moderate opposition politicians since last month. So far the majority of the opposition leadership has refused to dialogue, stating that political concessions, or “conditions”, must be satisfied first.
“We hope that in its 48 hour visit the UNASUR commission can reach conclusions that help Venezuela strengthen the climate of peace and defend democracy even more, and likewise to collaborate with the people so that they can consolidate all mechanisms of social and political dialogue,” Maduro stated.
Text based on an original article by Correo del Orinoco, translated and edited by Venezuelanalysis.com. Additional information added by VA.com.