Venezuela’s government says it has derailed a coup bid, claiming that the US, Colombia and Chile colluded in a plot to assassinate Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro.
The claim is the latest in a series by under-pressure Maduro, who is facing a popular backlash at home over a failing economy and spiraling inflation, as well as increasing international isolation.
The far-left leader is embroiled in a power struggle with Venezuelan National Assembly President Juan Guaido, the man the US and more than 50 other countries recognize as Venezuela’s legitimate interim ruler.
Maduro said that he would be “ruthless in a revolutionary counter-offensive against an attempted fascist coup — ruthless.”
In a speech broadcast nationwide on Wednesday, an agitated Maduro denounced a “fascist attempt to assassinate me” — and lashed out at Colombian President Ivan Duque, saying his “complicity” was “evident.”
Venezuelan Minister of Communications and Information Jorge Rodriguez earlier said that the alleged coup involved active duty and retired military officers, and was to have been executed last weekend.
“We were in all the meetings to plan the coup d’etat. We were in all the conferences,” he said, suggesting informers had infiltrated the alleged plotters — at least six of whom had been detained.
In his televised speech, Rodriguez also accused Guaido of planning “a bloodbath.”
Guaido for his part dismissed the coup claims as fiction, saying the media had “lost count” of how many times the same accusations had been repeated.
Guaido said that he would continue to call on the armed forces to abandon Maduro.
Russia, one of the regime’s most important allies, said that it had rotated out a team of military “technicians” it had sent to Venezuela to ensure the maintenance of military equipment and provide training to the Venezuelan military.
Rodriguez accused Duque of being closely involved in the alleged plot, and implicated Chilean President Sebastian Pinera and US National Security Adviser John Bolton.
Without referring directly to the charge, Colombian Minister of Foreign Affairs Carlos Holmes Trujillo said his country would “continue to act through political and diplomatic means” in Venezuela.
Rodriguez presented testimony from one of the detainees — Lieutenant Carlos Saavedra, whose “confession” revealed the plan envisaged the takeover of three military bases, including La Carlota air base in Caracas.
Maduro, his wife, Celia Flores, and Venezuelan Constituent Assembly President Diosdado Cabello were to be assassinated, along with other figures, the government said.
In his speech, Maduro briefly referred to an “Israeli group” he said was to carry out the killing.
The plotters hoped to spring former Venezuelan minister of defense Raul Baduel from jail to proclaim him president, Rodriguez said.
Maduro demoted Baduel last year as part of a purge of senior military officers. Also purged was general Antonio Rivero, allegedly another leader of the coup bid.
Maduro said he would seek the arrest and extradition from the Dominican Republic of a third former general, Eduardo Baez, who was also accused of involvement.