Puebla, Mexico, January 13, 2017 (venezuelanalysis.com) – Venezuelan authorities arrested Thursday two opposition politicians and a general after allegedly plotting to destabilise the country.
Those arrested include the municipal councillors Jorge Luis Gonzalez Villasmil from Zulia state and Romer Angel Rubio Flores from Bolivar, along with the former general Raul Baduel. Both the councillors are from the right-wing party, Primero Justicia.
“A destabilising terrorist plan against our homeland by members of the extreme right-wing has been unveiled,” Interior Minister Nestor Reverol told state media.
Reverol alleged the plot would have involved sparking violence during a political rally for former presidential candidate Manuel Rosales. Rosales fled to Peru in 2009 after being embroiled in a corruption scandal.
According to Reverol, during the demonstration Gonzalez, Rubio and Baduel planned to “cause the deaths of people who attended the rally, and of course to blame the government headed by our president, Nicolas Maduro.”
He alleged a stockpile of arms were also uncovered in connection to the case, including small home made explosives, 20 rounds of ammunition and improvised caltrops.
Reverol added that “important evidence” was found in the home of Baduel, a former ally of Maduro’s predecessor Hugo Chavez. In 2007, Baduel left his position as defence minister, with Chavez later stating he was fired after coming under suspicion of corruption. Baduel denied the allegations against him, but in 2010 he was convicted for misappropriating US$3.9 million in government funds, but was released on parole in 2015.
According to Reverol, Baduel has now been put behind bars again for allegedly violating his parole conditions. Court dates are yet to be set for Baduel and the two councillors.
Reverol said all three arrests were made by the newly created Anti-Coup Command. The organisation was created by Maduro on Tuesday. A day later, the body made its first arrest, National Assembly (AN) substitute legislator Gilber Alexander Caro Alfonzo. A member of another right wing party, Voluntad Popular, Caro was arrested on terrorism charges.
Authorities said they found Caro in possession of C-4 explosives and an FN FAL rifle with a Venezuela military serial number scratched off. The FAL was the Venezuelan army’s standard issue service weapon until it was replaced with a Kalashnikov variant a decade ago, though it’s still widely used by some branches of the military. Along with the weapons, Caro was also allegedly in possession of a hit list of opposition politicians.
While the government maintains all three arrests were aimed at preventing violence, opposition leaders have accused Maduro of presiding over a political crackdown.
“The regime accelerates its anti-democratic strategy of continued coup d'etat against democracy, the constitution and the people, ignoring parliament, jailing lawmakers and harassing governors," read a statement from the main opposition coalition, the MUD.
Meanwhile, Miranda Governor and former presidential contender Henrique Capriles said, “This is a raid against those of us who will not sell our principles.”
He continued, "They're paving the way to later declare us … barred from office."
Capriles himself is facing a government probe related to a massive corruption scandal.
Other opposition leaders have condemned Caro’s arrest as a violation of his parliamentary immunity. Voluntad Popular head Freddy Guevara described Caro’s arrest as “false”, and said only the AN had the power to strip him of parliamentary immunity. The AN is currently controlled by the right-wing political coalition, the MUD. The coalition includes Voluntad Popular.
The government has dismissed Guevara’s claims, arguing Caro has no parliamentary immunity because the AN is in violation of the Supreme Court.
“Enough with impunity!” said Vice-President Tareck El Aissami.