Mérida, September 12, 2008 (venezuelanalysis.com)– Venezuelan President Hugo Chávez confirmed that several people have been detained for suspected involvement in a recently foiled plot to assassinate him and to take over federal government buildings.
"To the world I denounce the pretension of the North American Empire to generate violence in our country," Chávez declared to a crowd of thousands of Venezuelans who gathered in front of the presidential palace to repudiate the coup plans Thursday night. "There are already some detainees, and others flee."
Four of the retired military officers implicated in recordings broadcast Wednesday night on the state television channel VTV made official declarations to the Military Attorney General's office and the Military Intelligence Division Thursday, according to the Venezuelan Defense Minister, General Rangel Briceño.
Military intelligence reports reveal that several implicated officials landed yesterday at the airport on the island of Bonaire, a territory of the Dutch Antilles off the coast of Venezuela, Briceño reported. The minister demanded that all other military officials who appear in the recordings present themselves to make official declarations.
So far, five homes of implicated military officers have been raided by military intelligence officers. Briceño assured that nobody will be arrested until a full investigation is carried out and charges presented, in line with due process laws.
Venezuela's Military Justice Code mandates a five to ten year jail sentence for military officials who rebel.
Commenting on the coup, Strategic Operational Command Chief Jesús González said Venezuela is "under threat" because "fundamentally, we are going to be a very coveted area, because we have an extraordinarily large reserve of crude [oil]."
Meanwhile, government officials and leaders of the United Socialist Party of Venezuela (PSUV) denounced the silence of the anti-Chávez opposition media, saying this is a sign that these media outlets are participating in the coup plans.
"What is surprising is the media silence," Communication and Information Minister Andrés Izarra said on the state television channel VTV Thursday. "In [the newspaper] El Universal, for example, there is no mention."
"It appears that the intention to assassinate the President is not news for some of the media, and this is sad," said the governor of the state of Miranda and former minister Diosdado Cabello on Thursday night.
National PSUV coordinator Jorge Rodríguez declared Thursday night at the presidential building that "they are doing the same as they did April 11th, covering up a bloody coup and kidnapping of President Chávez."
"The silence of the private media is the expression of its participation in the coup d'état attempt," Rodríguez added.
During the coup led by top Venezuelan business leaders between April 11 and 13, 2002, the private media manipulated images to make it look like pro-Chávez demonstrators were firing shots at opposition demonstrators, and falsely reported that President Chávez had resigned. Then, major television stations covered up the facts by broadcasting only Hollywood movies and other such programs as the coup was carried reversed by loyal military troops and ordinary citizens.
Prominent journalist José Vicente Rangel, who was Chávez's Defense Minister during the April 2002 coup, reminded the press Thursday that "we were denouncing the [coup plans for] April 11th for several months and nobody believed it, the opposition made fun of it and dismissed the denunciation before the coup."
Rangel, who was also Chávez's Vice President, denounced evidence of a new coup plot on several occasions so far this year. "We must not underestimate and information about this subject," he said.
Presidential Minister Jesse Chacón advocated that all Venezuelans follow the electoral path in the upcoming regional and local elections scheduled for this November 23rd.
"We want to beat the opposition in the elections on November 23rd and thus demonstrate that the people believe in this process more and more each day," said Chacón Thursday.
"Hopefully, some opposition leader will demonstrate a real belief in democracy and categorically reject this plot to wage a second coup d'état against President Chávez," Chacón expressed.
President Chávez, meanwhile, demanded respect for the democratic order not only in Venezuela, but also in Bolivia, where opposition forces have taken violently to the streets since President Evo Morales's presidency was ratified by 63.1% of Bolivian voters in a referendum last August.
"In the name of millions of us who are South Americans, I demand that the President of the United States respect the sovereignty of our peoples and governments," Chávez declared.
Confirming the expulsion Thursday of U.S. Ambassador to Venezuela Patrick Duddy, Chávez said, "until there is a government in the United States that respects the people of Latin America, there will be no Venezuelan Ambassador in that country."
The Morales administration also dismissed the U.S. Ambassador in Bolivia, Philip Goldberg, earlier this week on suspicion that Goldberg was working with the opposition to organize a coup.