Venezuela says it thwarted ‘coup’ bid

CARACAS (AFP) – Venezuela’s socialist government says it has derailed a coup bid, claiming the United States (US), Colombia and Chile colluded in a plot to assassinate President Nicolas Maduro.

The claim is the latest in a series by under-pressure Maduro, who is facing 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 Juan Guaido, the man the US and scores of other countries recognise as Venezuela’s legitimate interim ruler.

Maduro warned that he would be “ruthless in a revolutionary counter-offensive against an attempted fascist coup – ruthless!”

In a speech broadcast nationwide, an agitated Maduro denounced a “fascist attempt to assassinate me” – and lashed out at Colombian President Ivan Duque saying his “complicity” was “evident.”

Venezuelan opposition leader and self-proclaimed interim president Juan Guaido. – AFP

Venezuelan Communications Minister Jorge Rodriguez earlier said 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 opposition leader Juan 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.

Recognised by the US and more than 50 other countries as interim president, Guaido said he would continue to call on the armed forces to abandon Maduro.

Russia, one of the regime’s most important allies, said on Wednesday that it had rotated out a team of military “technicians” it had sent to Venezuela to ensure the maintainance of military equipment and provide training to the Venezuelan military.