has proof Washington was behind failed coup, general
Apr 17, 2003
CARACAS (AP) - A senior Venezuelan army general said the government of
the South American country has proof the United States was involved in a
short-lived coup against President Hugo Chavez last year.
Army Gen. Melvin Lopez, secretary of Venezuela's National Defence
Council, said Tuesday "proof exists" the U.S. administration
was involved in the mid-April putsch. He declined to give further
details. "We have the evidence," Lopez said during an
interview broadcast by Venezuela's state-run television channel.
Lopez said three U.S. military helicopters were on Venezuelan territory
during the coup.
A spokesmen from the Pentagon declined comment on the allegation
Dissident generals rose up against Chavez on April 11, 2002, several
hours after 19 Venezuelans died and over 100 were wounded by gunfire as
opposition marchers clashed with government supporters in downtown
Loyalists in the military returned Chavez to power two days later.
Following his return, Chavez said "worrying details" had
emerged suggesting a foreign country might have been involved in his
Chavez said a coastal radar installation had tracked a foreign
military ship and helicopter operating over Venezuelan waters a day
after his ouster. Chavez did not say which country had sent the ship and
helicopter but governing party legislators have accused the United
States of helping execute the coup.
The U.S. administration has repeatedly denied it was involved in the
coup but acknowledged having held conversations with Venezuelan
opposition leaders and military officers prior to the rebellion against
A month after Chavez returned, the U.S. Embassy denied allegations
U.S. military vessels were in Venezuelan territory.
The only U.S. vessels to approach Venezuelan waters during the coup
attempt were two U.S. coast guard ships on a joint anti-narcotics
mission with The Netherlands, the embassy said in a news release.
The embassy also rejected allegations by governing party legislators
that two U.S. military officials who visited the Fuerte Tiuna military
base in Caracas the day before Chavez's ouster were helping coup
The two officers spent two hours at the base April 11 to investigate
information about troop movements, the embassy said. They left hours
before Chavez was deposed. Two officers returned to the base April 13
for another evaluation of the situation.
Officials in Washington said they told opponents of Chavez they would
not support any unconstitutional activity aimed at removing the leftist
leader from power.
Chavez, who has irritated Washington by forging ties with Cuban
President Fidel Castro, has criticized the United States for being too
slow in condemning the coup when it occurred.
In contrast to most Latin American governments, the United States was
sluggish to condemn the coup, initially blaming Chavez for his own
overthrow. It later joined members of the Organization of American
States in condemning the coup as unconstitutional.
Last week, Chavez commemorated the one-year anniversary of his
dramatic return to power by inviting anti-globalization activists to a
series of forums in Caracas.
Opposition leaders condemned the celebration, saying it
was an insult to relatives of the victims who died in the violence that
occurred prior to the military uprising.
© The Canadian Press, 2003
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