Another coup attempt against Venezuelan President Hugo Chávez has failed. Eighty-eight Colombian paramilitaries were captured May 9 in Caracas while training for an assault on a military installation. According to Venezuela’s ambassador in Bogotá, those arrested are Colombian ex-military personnel, and the possible involvement of the Colombian authorities is under investigation.

The first group of Colombian paramilitaries was captured on a country estate near Caracas belonging to Robert Alonso, an anti-Castro Cuban exile and a leader of the opposition “Democratic Coordination.” Some were reportedly wearing Venezuelan military uniforms.

Venezuelan security forces “succeeded in capturing more than 50 Colombian paramilitaries, clothed in battle dress, who were waiting to receive arms before being transported to different locations in the country,” said Miguel Rodríguez, director of the Venezuelan investigative police, Disip.

Among the arrested is “a known Colombian paramilitary commander from the area of Cúcuta” on the Venezuelan frontier, according to Rodríguez. Some hours later, 32 more arrests were made outside Caracas.

The journalist Darvin Romero reported on the testimony of one the detainees who said 130 paramilitaries had been clandestinely transported to Venezuela from Colombia to be trained for more than a month on the Alonso estate. They were to have been moved this week to a place close to the Urban Security Command of the National Guard, which was to have been assaulted for the purpose of capturing weapons.

These weapons would have been used 15 days later to arm an additional 1,500 paramilitaries, trained in Colombia, to attempt a campaign of destabilization with the ultimate purpose of toppling the government of Chávez.

Chávez described the operation as a blow against those who wish to remove him from power and assassinate him.“We have delivered a blow against coup makers, the destabilizers and the terrorists,” he said.

The Colombian and U.S. governments have denied any involvement.

– Reprinted with permission by ANNCOL,