The purge within the Venezuelan government and military continues. President Nicolás Maduro, fresh off announcing a new international propaganda offensive, ordered the arrest of 30 soldiers of varying ranks for allegedly conspiring to stage a coup against the socialist government.
According to the Venezuelan newspaper Últimas Noticias, the 30 officials varied from lieutenant colonel rankings to Bolivarian National Guardsmen, and all are accused of participating in a widespread conspiracy to overthrow the government. The plan, sources tell the paper, was to orchestrate a chaotic event on March 20 that would embolden the civilian opposition to the government such that the military opposition to Maduro would help them take Caracas by force. Given the alleged leadership within the conspiracy by generals in the Air Force, aerial attacks would lead the coup before rebels on the ground took Miraflores palace.
Últimas Noticias notes that Venezuelan government intelligence was allegedly told of “something strange” happening in the military ranks, but was not sure until the arrest last month of three Air Force generals, now identified as Oswaldo Hernández Sánchez (G/D), José Machillanda Díaz (G/B), and Carlos Millán Yaguaracuto (G/B).
None of the military personnel arrested in relation to the conspiracy are known to have confessed, and no other corroborating information to prove that a conspiracy exists has surfaced beyond the arrests and information from Venezuelan government sources. President Maduro has been warning of such a coup, allegedly enabled by the United States, since his ascent to the presidency in the aftermath of President Hugo Chávez’s death.
The troops arrested Monday night add to the more than 2,000 Venezuelans arrested in the aftermath of the incarceration of Popular Will opposition party leader Leopoldo López. While the high-profile political prisoners under Maduro – mayors of opposition cities like Daniel Ceballos of San Cristóbal and Enzo Scarano of San Diego – appear to be merely held in isolation, hundreds of students arrested for protesting have reported instances of torture, rape, and disfigurement at the hands of the Bolivarian National Guard.
The instances of human rights abuses under the Maduro administration have become an international affair thanks to the efforts of Assemblywoman María Corina Machado, who has taken her case against the socialist government to the European Union this week. Machado, who was removed from her position in the National Assembly unconstitutionally by Assembly President Diosdado Cabello, testified before the European Parliament Monday, demanding international awareness and intervention to save the lives of young Venezuelans protesting against socialist government. “We demand of the regime an end to repression, the liberation of political prisoners in military barracks… we believe in the pacific and constitutional transition to democracy,” she told the European Parliament.
Protests continue throughout most of the nation, particularly in Western Venezuela, where Maduro has established an indefinite state of martial law over the town of San Cristóbal, Táchira, on the Andean border with Colombia. A United Nations study released this month found that, under Maduro, Venezuela has risen to second on the list of most murder-prone nations in the world.