Wednesday, May 23, 2007

Venezuelan Authorities Warn of Destabilization Plans

Wednesday, May 23, 2007

By: Chris Carlson -

Mérida, May 23, 2007 (— In recent days, Venezuelan government officials have increasingly warned of plans to destabilize the country in the lead up to the May 27th protests in support of the private TV station RCTV. Authorities have warned of a U.S.-organized plan to infiltrate the country with Colombian paramilitaries, among other rumored plots. But President Chavez assured yesterday that the government would not allow them to achieve their goals.

Speaking in Caracas yesterday, Chavez made reference to rumors of destabilization plans that have circulated in recent days. Talk of plots against the government by opposition groups has increased as the date of the May 27th opposition protest approaches.

"There are groups that keep thinking that with riots, with Colombian paramilitaries, with rumors and media campaigns against the National Armed Forces that they will destabilize the country, but they won't do it, we won't allow it," assured Chavez during his speech yesterday.

Among the rumored plots is one revealed by Ex-vice president Jose Vicente Rangel last Sunday. Talking on his television show Jose Vicente Today, the ex-official reported that a joint U.S.-Colombian operation has been detected to infiltrate Colombian paramilitaries, including some expert snipers, into Venezuela. According to Rangel, the plot has the intention of assassinating government leaders and leaders of the opposition to create general instability in the country in what he called "a new phase in the dirty war against Venezuela."

Rangel also spoke of a second plan to infiltrate into Venezuela a Colombian drug lord to later be captured by Colombian authorities in order to accuse the Venezuelan government of providing him protection and to create "an international scandal." A similar plan to this one was carried out two years ago when a high official of the Colombian guerrilla group FARC was captured in Venezuela with the intention of accusing the Chavez government of providing aid to the FARC. In the ensuing crisis, Chavez temporarily broke off relations with the neighboring country.

Those behind the plans are Colombian drug-traffickers along with the "warlike elements of the North American government, headed by John Negroponte, the second-highest in the U.S. State Department, who recently visited Colombia," explained Rangel. Also involved in the plots is Colombian Defense Minister Juan Manuel Santos who recently provoked a crisis between the two countries when he made declarations in Spain criticizing Venezuelan counter drug trafficking.

The Colombian government has denied the claims, assuring that the Colombian government is a friend of Venezuela and desires good relations with the neighboring country. Minister Foreign Affairs Fernando Araujo, speaking to the press on Monday, defended Santos, explaining that he "is totally respectful of Venezuelan institutions and the internal affairs of Venezuela."

Nevertheless, Venezuelan state intelligence has been on the lookout in order to diffuse any plans before they take place. On Monday, intelligence groups found various firearms and weapons that they say are connected to a destabilization plan motivated by the RCTV case.

Venezuelan Minister of the Interior Pedro Carreño announced at a press conference on Monday the arrest of two individuals in the possession of various weapons. Among the weapons were several sub-machine guns, three shotguns, and parts to a 762 caliber machine gun.

In addition, Carreño said that in a raid in the Caracas sector of Altamira another individual was detained under charges of "plotting against the security and defense of the nation."

Authorities found four rifles, three shotguns, six pistols, two revolvers, a rifle scope, four bombs, bullet-proof vests, among other related items. In the house of the subject authorities also found more rifles and shotguns, a crossbow, and a laptop computer with information of other weapons.

Carreño assured that the intelligence agencies are on alert and are prepared to diffuse "any situation that could hurt the political stability of the country, the security of the citizens, the stability of the institutions and, therefore, the internal peace of the Republic."