- 2004 putative Venezuelan coup d'état attempt
The putative Venezuelan coup of 2004 was a hypothesized plot to overthrow
Hugo Chávez, who is the current President of Venezuela. According to Chávez and his supporters, the capture of several dozen individuals in May 2004 and other developments prove the existence of the purported coup plot, while the anti-Chávez opposition discounts the notion that any deeper meaning can be imputed to the raid and capture of the Colombian detainees or to other events.
Baruta and Guigue raids and the capture of Colombians
May 9, 2004, Venezuelan police raided a ranch in Baruta, which is situated on the outskirts of the Venezuelan capital of Caracas. A total of fifty-five Colombian men were arrested. The raided ranch was owned by Roberto Alonso, a Cuban exileactive in the anti-Castro movement and a leader of the Venezuelan opposition group Bloque Democrático. Shortly thereafter, they arrested 71 more men at a neighboring ranch that was owned by Gustavo Cisneros, another outspoken Cuban-Venezuelan Chávez opponentFact|date=June 2007. On the night of August 2, 2004, members of the National Guard and the Disip raided the ranch "El Conuco" (property of a prominent anti-castrista lawyer exiled in Florida) searching for stolen military armament presumably meant to be used in the aborted coup d'état, but nothing was found.
Detainees as manpower for coup conspirators
One of the detainees allegedly stated that they had been offered 500,000
Colombian pesos to work on the farm. Upon their arrival at the farm, however, they were told that they instead would need to prepare for an attack on a Venezuelan National Guard base. The goal of the putative attack was allegedly to steal weapons and fully arm a 3,000-member militia. [http://www.greenleft.org.au/back/2004/583/583p18b.htm]
Detainees as victims of entrapment by foul play
According to other detainees and their Colombian families, most of those that were arrested were merely unemployed and impoverished peasants. Many of these men originated from the
Cúcutaarea; many of them also had at some point in their lives done military service in Colombia, thus qualified as Colombian military reservists. They had then reportedly been promised secure work in Venezuela, but were later betrayed. [http://news.bbc.co.uk/hi/spanish/latin_america/newsid_3698000/3698989.stm] The families of 68 detainees announced to the Colombian press in June 2004their intention of travelling to Venezuela to argue for their relatives freedom, claiming that they fell to a setup. [http://noticias.canalrcn.com/noticia.php3?nt=12388] . Another relative told the Venezuelan opposition press that the prisoners were being mistreated while in captivity [http://www.eluniversal.com/movil/13A475161.html] . The official press reported a government denial of this claim.
The family of a Venezuelan National Guard Captain arrested and accused of being implicated in the supposed paramilitary plot likewise denounced in the opposition press the possibility of a political persecution against those that would not share the Venezuelan revolutionary process. He was said not to be recognized when he was presented to the Colombian detainees. [http://www.eluniversal.com/2004/07/16/pol_art_16108E.shtml] . Some women and underaged children were also included among those captured suspected paramilitaries. The latter were speedily repatriated to Colombia by Venezuelan authorities [http://www.terra.com.ve/actualidad/articulo/html/act176707.htm] . The alleged paramilitaries were caught wearing Venezuelan Army uniforms and apparently had a single gun in their possession in the immediate area. At least two (other sources speak of between three and five) suspected paramilitary commanders were also reported to be in custody.
Opposition critics of the official Venezuelan government's version also mention that an attack by such a small number of fighters against a strongly defended Venezuelan military position and/or eventually the palace of President Chávez would amount to certain failure and virtual suicide on the part of those carrying out the alleged operation. Supporters of the government's version point to the claim that the captured men would only be part of a vanguard of allegedly some 3,000 potential operatives that would have been later introduced into the country.Fact|date=February 2007
Proceedings against the detainees
During the judicial process, the number of the accused shrunk to 100 as several of the alleged paramilitaries were deported or collaborated with Venezuelan authorities. In October
2005, the Venezuelan prosecution asked for a sentence of 6 years for 57 to 62 of the alleged paramilitaries, while desisting to condemn between 38 and 43 of the men, which were considered to have been led to Venezuela under false pretenses and/or had apparentely suffered mistreatment from the alleged coup plotters. [http://deportes.eluniversal.com/2005/10/03/pol_ava_03A616651.shtml] [http://www.panodi.com/panodi/131343.html] [http://www.elpais.com.co/paisonline/notas/Octubre052005/vene.html]
October 25 2005, a Venezuelan military tribunal found 27 of the men guilty, sentencing them to 6 years in jail, and ordered the release and deportation of the other 73 Colombians. 3 out of 6 Venezuelan military officers accused of participating in the alleged plans for a coup were also condemned by the tribunal. [http://www.rnv.gov.ve/noticias/?act=ST&f=27&t=25198]
Alleged links to Commandos F4
June 2004, a Cuban Miami TV channel broadcasted a program featuring the Florida-based Commandos F4. Rodolfo Frometa, the Commandos F4 leader, said that his group was ready to carry out violent attacks against the Cuban government. Former Venezuelan army captain Eduardo García described the help he received from Commandos F4 to organize similar violent actions against the Chávez government. According to the TV program maker Randy Alonso, the US government would have recently earmarked $36 million to support such paramilitary groups. [http://www.counterpunch.org/wire06112004.html] U.S. officials and opposition figures in Venezuela have dismissed this claim. Alonso himself went into hiding, and many media reports (including his official website) stated that he had fled the country.
In August 2007, Hugo Chávez granted a presidential pardon to 41 Colombian convicts who were not involved in "human rights violations or war crimes", excluding those being investigated for the death of a man whose corpse was found in the ranch the men were captured. [http://www.eluniversal.com/2007/08/30/pol_ava_gobierno-indulto-a-4_30A969519.shtml]
The 27 Colombian convicts who were sentenced in October 2005 were among those pardoned and deported to Colombia. [http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/americas/6974630.stm]
* [http://www.venezuelanalysis.com/news.php?newsno=1776 Venezuelan Court Releases 2 Officers and 38 others Involved Destabilization Plan]
October 5, 2005, Alessandro Parma, Venezuelanalysis.com.
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