Mérida, October 13, 2008 (venezuelanalysis.com)-- During a campaign event for the United Socialist Party of Venezuela (PSUV) in the western state of Zulia on Sunday, President Hugo Chávez declared that the current governor of Zulia, Manuel Rosales, is behind a plot to overthrow the national government.
Venezuelan security authorities detained three men who penetrated the security perimeter around the stage where Chávez was celebrating Indigenous Resistance Day Sunday.
Jorge Rodríguez, the national coordinator of the PSUV and former vice president of Venezuela, said the men were wearing red shirts bearing the logo of the state oil company PDVSA, and were taking photos of Chávez's security personnel.
The men told interrogators that they were paid by Fabián Masías, a campaign manager for the opposition political party Un Nuevo Tiempo, which Rosales founded.
According to Rodríguez, Rosales confessed to having sent the men, saying it was a "group that attends all political activities to take photos and evaluate the activity."
Chávez said the detainees were taken to Caracas for further interrogation, and he assured that their rights will be respected. "They are lucky because if another president were here, they would not be treated like we are treating them, because we are a government that respects human rights," the president said.
Meanwhile, Chávez called Rosales "a coup monger who supported the coup d'état [in April 2002] and continues being the Yankee tool to overthrow the national government."
He assured the crowd of PSUV supporters that Rosales's administration in Zulia has forged ties with paramilitary groups and permitted the CIA to operate in Zulia to plan the overthrow of the national government.
"These destabilizing elements, along with the current governor, plan to create a crisis in 2009 to bring an end to our government," Chávez declared. He said he has documents in his possession which show that the "epicenter" of the coup will be Maracaibo, the capital of the state of Zulia.
Rosales, in response, accused the Chávez administration of budget irregularities and corruption, and said Chávez should be in jail.
The governor of Zulia, who ran for president against Chávez in 2006, also told the president to stop "giving money to other countries, and fulfill commitments with the people, who are the real owners of that money."
Chávez responded, "I am going to call Rosales to a trial so he may demonstrate the veracity of his accusations. If I have embezzled wealth, fine, they can dismiss me as president, and if not, he will go to jail for libel."
Last month, the Venezuelan government discovered tape and video recordings of retired military officers who were planning to assassinate President Chávez and overthrow the government. Days afterward, security authorities located a stockpile of weapons believed to be for the coup.
Andrés Izarra, the Venezuelan minister of communication and information, said the government has tried to reach out to the opposition, but has been rejected. "What we ask for is a loyal opposition, a democratic opposition, loyal to the country, to the institutions, that does not seek the anti-democratic way out," said Izarra.
Chávez called on Venezuelan voters to help avoid a coup d'état by voting for the candidates of the PSUV in the regional and local elections this November. "We have to bring an end to this, and you can start next November 23rd," he declared.