More Anti-Government Paramilitaries Captured in Venezuela

Several other paramilitaries seeking to overthrow the government have been detained. Six hundred bulletproof vests were found during raids, and human remains were located at the farm were the irregulars were training

Improvised observation post at the farm where Colombian paramilitaries were captured last Sunday.
Credit: Carlos Rios – Radio Nacional de Venezuela

Tuesday, May 11, 2004 ( Investigations continue in the case of a group of Colombian parmailitaries captured by Venezuelan authorities on Sunday at a farm in the outskirts of Caracas. According to testimony by some of the detainees, the group was training in preparation for attacks on Venezuelan military bases and for a coup d’etat against the government of President Hugo Chavez.

The group planned to concentrate near a Caracas military base -presumably the National Guard Urban Security Command- and assault it next Wednesday. About 100 of the irregulars are members of the Colombian military reserve, according the authorities’ analysis of Colombian documents found in the farm, and according to testimony by some of the men captured.

The director of Venezuela’s investigative police DISIP, Miguel Rodriguez Torres, announced yesterday that authorities have conducted a number of raids leading to some arrests, but refused to give details on some of the raids in order to avoid putting other suspects on alert.

Six hundred bulletproof vests were found inside the house of National Guard Capitan Douglas Perez Perez.
Credit: Venezolana de Television

Six hundred bulletproof vests found

Six hundred bulletproof vests were found inside the house of National Guard Capitan Douglas Perez Perez in the wealthy eastern Caracas neighborhood of Prados del Este. According to Rodriguez, the vests are part of a lot that was supposed to be incinerated. Authorities will investigate why Capitan Perez was storing the vests in his house. Perez was under house arrest since May of 2003 after he was found guilty of smuggling Chinese immigrants into the country. Rodriguez said the vests were to be used by the paramilitaries.

According to the DISIP Director, the raids continue through the night and there will be important announcements made today. He said that there are several cells of this paramilitary group, “but all of those will be dismantled using the tools given to us by the Constitution.”

A house belonging to former President Carlos Andres Perez, a fierce opponent of the Chavez government, was also searched. The house located in the wealthy neighborhood of Oripoto, is currently occupied by his former wife. “We were expecting this because we know that there rule of law does not prevail in Venezuela,” said ex-president Perez in an interview from Miami with the opposition-aligned Union Radio network. Perez reiterated is belief that all peaceful means to oust Hugo Chavez have been exhausted, and that violence is necessary to achieve that goal. Perez declared to several media outlets that the capture of the paramilitaries was a hoax designed by Chavez to distract the people’s attention from other issues facing his presidency.

Barracs at the property of opposition activist Robert Alonso located in the outskirts of Caracas. Colombian paramilitaries lived there for 46 days in preparation for attacks on military bases.
Credit: Carlos Rios – Radio Nacional de Venezuela

Opposition protests raids

As both raids were being conducted, TV footage showed neighbors protesting the authorities by banging pots, honking and chanting slogans such as “not a single step back!”. DISIP Director Miguel Rodriguez lamented the fact that the neighbors of the upper-class sections where the raids were conducted, seemed to be defending the paramilitaries. “This is a problem that affects us all. They [the protesters] are defending criminals who came to our country to kill our families. I ask them to reflect on their actions,” said Rodriguez.

More captures

Radio Nacional de Venezuela, a state owned radio network, informed that nine other paramilitaries were captured yesterday morning.

Vice-president Jose Vicente Rangel announced in a press conference the capture of active National Guard Colonel Orlando Castro in the city of Maracay, located an hour west of Caracas. Colonel Castro is believed to be the one in charge of buying the food for the paramilitaries captured.

Another presumed paramilitary officer was captured in the state of Barinas, close to the Colombian border. The irregular was carrying a fake ID card of the Colombian intelligence service DAS.

Mr. Robert Alonso, the owner of the farm where the group was concentrated, is being sought by authorities. Alonso has given interviews to TV and radio stations in Miami claiming to be innocent of any wrongdoing.

Human remains found

The remains of a dead man were found near the farm where the paramilitaries were concentrated. The body was not completely buried. Authorities believe that the man was forced to dig his own grave, as a pick was found buried.

Authorities uncovered the remains of a man believed to be killed by the leaders of the paramilitary group.
Credit: Carlos Rios – Radio Nacional de Venezuela

Vice-president Rangel said that according to some of the detainees, the man’s throat was cut because he tried to escape from the farm. There is another man who was killed, and is buried somewhere near the farm, according to the detainees.

According to the Vice-president, rebel military General Felipe Rodriguez, nicknamed “the Crow”, is also a suspect in the case. Intelligence reports say that General Rodriguez met recently with Colombian paramilitary leaders. Rodriguez is a fugitive of justice accused of participating in the February 2003 terrorist attacks on the Consulate of Colombia and an office of the Spanish Embassy in Caracas.

The capture of the paramilitary group confirms President Chavez’s repeated alerts on the existence of groups funded outside of Venezuela and by the local opposition with the intention of overthrowing the democratically-elected government. “We have struck a blow to the kidney of coup-plotters, destabilizers, and terrorists,” Chavez said.

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