Sunday, February 22, 2015

Jailed Opposition Caracas Mayor Charged with Plotting Violence against Venezuela Government


In the arraignment, prosecutors accused the mayor of the crimes of conspiracy and criminal association, the AG’s office said Friday in a statement

CARACAS – Venezuela’s Attorney General’s Office said Caracas Mayor Antonio Ledezma, a prominent opposition leader, has been formally charged with conspiracy in connection with an alleged plot against President Nicolas Maduro’s leftist government.

In the arraignment, prosecutors accused the mayor of the crimes of conspiracy and criminal association, the AG’s office said Friday in a statement.

The Caracas-based court ordered the mayor jailed at the Ramo Verde military prison, where another high-profile opposition leader, Leopoldo Lopez, has been held since Feb. 18, 2014.

Ledezma was arrested Thursday in connection with the case of Lorent Gomez Saleh and Gabriel Valles, two student activists deported from Colombia and detained in Venezuela in September on conspiracy and rebellion charges, the AG’s office said.

Miguel Rodriguez Torres, who was Venezuela’s interior minister at the time of those arrests, linked Ledezma to Gomez’s and Valles’ purported plot and said the student activists were backed by hard-line Colombian ex-President Alvaro Uribe.

The Caracas mayor acknowledged then, last September, that he knew the two young people but stressed that “that does not mean forming part of a terrorist network backed by Colombian former President Alvaro Uribe to destabilize Venezuela.”

Intelligence agents arrested Ledezma Thursday at the headquarters of his party, the Fearless People’s Alliance, in the Caracas neighborhood of El Rosal.

Last week, the mayor of the municipality of Libertador, Jorge Rodriguez, a former Venezuelan vice president and member of Maduro’s socialist PSUV party, accused Ledezma and opposition lawmaker Julio Borges of being behind a purported coup that, according to Maduro, was thwarted a day before it was to have been carried out on Feb. 12.

A number of air force officers were among the people detained, Maduro said Feb. 13, insisting that the plotters’ strategy was “devised from Washington.”

Defense Minister Vladimir Padrino said on live television that same day, flanked by the armed forces chiefs, that Venezuela’s armed forces remain squarely behind Maduro’s government.

“We are experiencing a war in the broadest sense of the word,” Padrino said in an interview with Efe earlier this month. “A fourth-generation war, a psychological campaign that has tried to seek out military leaders, to contact them so that they come out in the manner of the military defections seen in 2002.”

The minister referred to the participation of senior military officers in the abortive April 2002 coup against Maduro’s predecessor and mentor, the late Hugo Chavez.

The Venezuelan opposition has dismissed the report of the coup plot as a “fantasy story.”


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