Colombia says Venezuelans caught with submachine guns planned to kill president

Duque HolmesAuthorities in Colombia said that three Venezuelans, who were arrested in Colombia’s Caribbean coast with submachine guns and explosives, were planning to assassinate President Iván Duque. The claim was aired in a video posted on Twitter by Colombia’s Minister of Foreign Affairs, Carlos Holmes, on December 29. In the brief video, Holmes said that Colombian intelligence services had uncovered evidence of a “credible threat to the life” or President Duque. He went on to suggest that the investigation into the alleged assassination operation had gone on for “several months” with the cooperation of “foreign intelligence agencies”, which he did not name. He also urged Colombians to come forward with any information in their possession that could assist the ongoing investigation.

On December 30, several Colombian newspapers reported that Holmes’ Twitter warning had been triggered by the arrest on December 21 of two Venezuelans in Colombia’s northern city of Valledupar. The two men, identified in media reports as Pedro José Acosta and José Vicente Gómez, both 22, were found to be in possession of rifles. Guillermo Botero, Colombia’s Minister of Defense, said later that the rifles were “high-precision” and were “camouflaged”, though he did not explain what that meant. On December 26, a third Venezuelan, identified in media reports as Geiger Vásquez, 35, was arrested in the city of Barranquilla. He was reportedly carrying a bag containing an Uzi submachine gun, along with ammunition and several grenades.

Government officials said that the attempt to kill President Duque could have been sponsored by leftist rebel groups, such as the National Liberation Army (ELN), that are active in the Colombian-Venezuelan border. There were also accusations in some Colombian media that the government of Venezuela may have helped plan the alleged attempt on Duque’s life. Since assuming the Colombian presidency in August, Duque has spearheaded international efforts to impose sanctions on the leftwing Venezuelan government of President Nicolas Maduro, who is about to begin his second term in office. Relations between the two neighboring countries have thus sunk to new lows in recent months. On Monday, the Venezuelan government said it had requested more information about the alleged assassination plot from Colombian authorities and that it would provide Bogotá with “the necessary police and intelligence cooperation” to help investigate the allegations.

Author: Joseph Fitsanakis | Date: 02 January 2019 | Permalink

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Major suspect in Maduro assassination plot dies in captivity in Caracas

Nicolás MaduroA leading suspect in a failed attempt to kill Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro using drones, has died in mysterious circumstances while being held by the country’s intelligence agency. The attack took place on August 4, 2018, in front of the Palacio de Justicia government complex in the Venezuelan capital Caracas. That afternoon, President Maduro was giving a nationally televised speech on the occasion of the 81st anniversary of the Bolivarian National Guard. An hour after the commencement of the outdoor ceremony, Maduro’s speech was interrupted by a loud noise that appeared to come directly from above, approximately 100 yards away from the podium. The noise turned out to have been a bomb affixed on a modified, commercially available drone. Moments later, another drone exploded after crashing into a building just two blocks northeast of where the Venezuelan president was standing. Seven members of the National Guard were injured in the attack.

President Maduro, who escaped unharmed, has blamed Colombia-based far-right extremists for the attack, and has named former Colombian President Juan Manuel Santos as their leader. But the Colombian government has rejected these allegations and has demanded to see proof. Throughout August, several people were arrested by Venezuelan authorities and charged with treason in connection with the assassination plot. Approximately 30 people have been named as participants in the plan. Among them was Fernando Albán, a 56-year-old critic of Maduro, who was serving as an opposition city councilor in Caracas. Althouth his arrest was announced on Friday, there were no reports about his fate over the weekend. On Monday, however, the government said that Albán had died after committing suicide. A subsequent report said that the 56-year-old had died after throwing himself out of a window located on the tenth floor of the headquarters of the Bolivarian Intelligence Service, where he was being held. Later on Monday, Nestor Luis Reverol, Venezuela’s Minister of Interior, said that Albán voluntarily jumped out of the window as he was being transported to court in order to be formally charged.

On Monday night, Venezuela’s Attorney General Tarek William Saab said during a television interview that Albán had been given permission to go to the bathroom and used it as an opportunity to kill himself. But critics of the government see the August 4 assassination attempt as a false-flag operation orchestrated by the Maduro administration to justify a new crackdown on the opposition. They claim that Albán was murdered and that it would have been impossible for him to throw himself out of a window given the security precautions that are in place at the Bolivarian Intelligence Service building. Meanwhile, Albán’s attorney, Joel Garcia, dismissed the Venezuelan government’s explanation of his client’s death as “totally false” and doubted that he would have been allowed to go to the bathroom unaccompanied.

Author: Joseph Fitsanakis | Date: 10 October 2018 | Permalink

Trump officials ‘discussed secret coup plans’ with Venezuelan army officers

Nicolas MaduroUnited States President Donald Trump authorized American officials to attend secret meetings held by Venezuelan military officers who conspired to launch a military coup against President Nicolás Maduro. The claim was made on Saturday by The New York Times, which cited “interviews with 11 current and former American officials” and information from an unnamed Venezuelan former military commander. The former commander claims to have attended the secret talks, which allegedly were held over several meetings during the past year.

According to The Times, the meetings were sparked by a comment made by President Trump in August of 2017, that he did not rule out a “military option” to “restore calm” in Venezuela. That comment reportedly prompted at least three groups of Venezuelan military officers opposed to the rule of President Maduro to reach out to the White House. One of these groups, said The Times, had one of its representatives contact American diplomats in an unnamed European country. That outreach led to “a series of covert meetings abroad”, according to The Times, the first of which took place in the fall of 2017. The meetings continued until recently, and were held with a number of Venezuelan military officers who claimed to represent the views of several hundred members of the National Bolivarian Armed Forces. The rebellious officers allegedly told the US government’s representative that they planned to launch a military coup aimed at deposing President Maduro and installing a transitional government that would guarantee peaceful elections. They reportedly asked the White House representative to supply them with secure communications equipment, which they could use to coordinate their operations.

However, the White House eventually decided that backing a military coup in Venezuela would be too risky due to the potential for spiraling bloodshed. It thus distanced itself from the plan. Additionally, some US government officials were alarmed by the composition of the rebel officers: at least one of them was a serious violator of human rights who had previously been accused by the US of involvement of participating in drugs smuggling and having close links with the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia, which is on Washington’s official list of foreign terrorist organizations. Eventually the plotters canceled their plans for a coup, having assessed it would be met by fierce resistance by pro-Maduro forces.

The Times reached out to the White House, which rejected the paper’s report, saying it was important to “dialogue with all Venezuelans who demonstrate a desire for democracy”. But it refused to respond to specific questions about the allegations of a possible coup in Venezueal with Washington’s backing. President Maduro has already blamed the US for two attempts to assassinate him in the past 18 months, with the most recent one involving the use of an exploding drone. In 2002, Maduro’s predecessor, the late Venezuelan President Hugo Chávez, was briefly deposed by a military putsch. Chávez was able to beat back the rebels with the help of his civilian and military supporters, and then accused Washington of having had direct involvement with the attempt to remove him from power. The US has strongly denied Chávez’s charges.

Author: Joseph Fitsanakis | Date: 10 September 2018 | Permalink

Aruba releases Venezuelan ex-spy despite US calls to detain him

Hugo Carvajal BarriosBy IAN ALLEN | intelNews.org
The former director of Venezuela’s military intelligence, who had been arrested in Aruba following a request by the United States for his capture, has been released, sparking protests from Washington. On July 24, authorities in the Dutch-controlled Caribbean island announced the arrest of Hugo Carvajal Barrios, former director of Venezuela’s Dirección General de Inteligencia Militar (DGIM). Carvajal, a close associate of the country’s late president Hugo Chavez, was accused by the US Department of the Treasury in 2008 of weapons and drugs smuggling. According to the US government, Carvajal was personally involved in illegally providing weapons to the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC), a leftwing guerrilla group engaged in a decades-long insurgency war against the government of Colombia. It also accused the Venezuelan official of helping the FARC smuggle cocaine out of the country, in a bid to help them raise funds to support their insurgency against Colombian authorities. In January of this year, Caracas appointed Carvajal consul-general to Aruba. Aruban officials told reporters last week that, although Carvajal held a Venezuelan diplomatic passport, he had not yet received his official diplomatic accreditation from the Aruban authorities at the time of his arrest, and was therefore not an accredited diplomat. By the end of last week, it appeared almost certain that Carvajal would be extradited to the US. But the Dutch government suddenly reversed its position on Monday and decided to release Carvajal, who has reportedly been expelled from Aruba and declared persona non grata (unwanted person). Some observers, including Venezuela’s former ambassador to the United Nations, Milos Alcalay, opined that the Dutch territory reversed its decision following “diplomatic threats” by Venezuela, “entailing severe economic relations”. Read more of this post

Aruba arrests ex-head of Venezuelan intelligence, after US request

Hugo Carvajal BarriosBy IAN ALLEN | intelNews.org
The former director of Venezuela’s military intelligence, who was a close associate of the country’s late president Hugo Chavez, has been arrested in Aruba following a request by the United States. Authorities in the Dutch-controlled Caribbean island announced on Thursday the arrest of Hugo Carvajal Barrios, former director of Venezuela’s Dirección General de Inteligencia Militar (DGIM), which is Venezuela’s military intelligence agency. A close comrade of Venezuela’s late socialist leader, Carvajal was accused by the US Department of the Treasury in 2008 of weapons and drugs smuggling. According to the US government, Carvajal was personally involved in illegally providing weapons to the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC), a leftwing guerrilla group involved in a decades-long insurgency war against the government of Colombia. It also accused the Venezuelan official of helping the FARC smuggle cocaine out of the country, in a bid to help them raise funds to support their insurgency against Colombian authorities. But the government of Venezuela rejects all charges and has been sheltering Carvajal. In January of this year it appointed him consul-general to Aruba, a Dutch colony in the Caribbean located just 15 miles off Venezuela’s coast. Caracas reacted strongly to Carvajal’s arrest, saying the detention of the diplomat was a violation of the Vienna Convention, which grants international diplomats immunity from arrest or detention. But Aruban officials told reporters on Thursday that, although Carvajal holds a Venezuelan diplomatic passport, he has not yet received his official diplomatic accreditation from the Aruban authorities, and is therefore not an accredited diplomat. A spokesperson for the Aruban prosecutor’s office told the Associated Press that Carvajal “does not have any function here in Aruba. He is not the consul-general. Therefore he has no immunity”. Read more of this post

Former director of Venezuelan spy agency shot dead in Caracas

Eliézer OtaizaBy JOSEPH FITSANAKIS | intelNews.org
The former director of Venezuela’s primary intelligence agency has been found shot dead. Venezuelan officials said Eliézer Otaiza was shot dead sometime in the early hours of Saturday morning in Baruta, a suburb in the outskirts of capital Caracas. His bullet-ridden vehicle was later found abandoned in another part of the same barrio. Venezuela’s Minister of the Interior, Miguel Rodriguez Torres, told reporters on Tuesday that Otaiza’s body was discovered on Saturday, but that it took nearly two days for him to be identified due to the absence of identification documents on the body. At the time of his assassination, Otaiza headed the Libertador Bolivarian Municipality in Caracas which numbers over two million residents. Earlier in his career, however, Otaiza led an elite unit of the personal guard corps of Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez. The latter also appointed him director of the National Directorate of Intelligence and Prevention Services (DISIP), later renamed Bolivarian Intelligence Service, which is today Venezuela’s foremost intelligence organization. Otaiza was known as a stalwart supporter of Venezuela’s populist president, even in the early 1990s, when Chavez was still in opposition. In February of 1992, when Chavez led a failed military coup aimed at ousting President Carlos Andres Perez, Otaiza had been unable to participate on account of his absence from Venezuela. But he played a leading role in another pro-Chavez military mutiny in November of that year, when he led a small military force attempting to storm the Miraflores presidential palace in Caracas. He was shot several times in the chest but survived thanks to a bulletproof vest he was wearing. Venezuelan government media said Otaiza played “an important part in the events leading to the Bolivarian revolution”, and remained a strong supporter of Chavez throughout the president’s life. Read more of this post

News you may have missed #826 (suspicious deaths edition)

Pablo Neruda (right) and Salvador AllendeBy IAN ALLEN | intelNews.org |
►►Key suspect in Russian spy murder refuses to cooperate. Andrey Lugovoi, who is now an elected official in Russia, says he will not talk even by video to British investigators about the poisoning of Alexander Litvinenko in London just over six years ago. The murder of former Russian spy Alexander Litvinenko in London in 2006, has never been solved and remains the subject of conflicting narratives and still-deepening intrigue over who may have killed him and why.
►►Exhumation of Neruda’s remains set for April. A court in Chile has set April 8 as the date for the exhumation of the remains of the Nobel Prize-winning poet Pablo Neruda, as part of an inquest into his death. The poet and leftwing activist died 12 days after a military coup replaced the socialist President Salvador Allende with General Augusto Pinochet. The poet’s family maintains that he died at 69 of advanced prostate cancer. But in 2011, Chile started investigating allegations by his former driver, Manuel Araya Osorio, that the poet had been poisoned.
►►Venezuela to investigate Chavez murder allegations. Venezuelan officials have said they will set up an inquiry to investigate suspicions that President Hugo Chavez was “murdered by foreign agencies”. Venezuelan Oil Minister Rafael Ramirez told the BBC the United States and Israel were to blame for Chavez’s death, and that he had no doubt that Chavez’s death was an act “similar to Yasser Arafat’s“. Earlier this week, the US expelled two Venezuelan diplomats following the expulsion of two American officials from Caracas.