The Venezuelan interior affairs and justice minister, Miguel Rodriguez Torres, has given information on an alleged plan to destabilise the country, detailing foreign involvement in the recent militant opposition street barricades.
Sectors of the Venezuelan opposition, former Colombian and Mexican presidents Alvaro Uribe and Vicente Fox, and the U.S. State Department and other institutions were all accused of being involved in fomenting a strategy of internal destabilisation.
According to Rodriguez, some members of the Venezuelan opposition met in Mexico in 2010 to plan a strategy to remove the government of Hugo Chavez. At this meeting, right-wing Venezuelan politician Leopoldo Lopez was elected to lead destabilising actions, it was alleged.
Street actions were employed by opposition youth groups JAVU, Movement 13 and Operation Liberty, who used “hunger strikes”, “self-chaining” and street camps to pressure the government while Chavez received cancer treatment in early 2013, before passing away.
Following this, a street barricade strategy was employed in major cities from January to April this year, in the context of a wave of opposition disturbances, riots and protests. Rodriguez argued that the street barricades were based on an earlier strategy used against the Chavez government in 2004 and “financed by the far-right”.
“This time they have tried other methods, with other techniques, with other people to try and reactivate and improve the method of application of the street barricades,” said Rodriguez.
The minister, who made his presentation on national television with flow charts and photos of alleged meetings and conversations, said the street barricades were employed along with a diplomatic and media strategy to “attack the Bolivarian revolution”.
This campaign allegedly involves the U.S. State Department, which the minister said has the strategic aim of “impeding the continental propagation of the Bolivarian ideal and appropriating and controlling the greatest oil reserves on the planet”.
Rodriguez said that the two main planks of this strategy are to accuse top Venezuelan government officials of financing narco-trafficking or terrorist activities, and to attack the government over human rights issues to make Venezuela appear as a “rogue state”.
On the latter, opposition politicians such as Antonio Ledezma, Maria Corina Machado, Leopoldo Lopez and Diego Arria were indicated as supplying “manipulated” information on human rights issues to U.S. diplomatic and other sources.
“U.S. institutions and NGOs gather manipulated information to make it appear to the world that basic rights are permanently and constantly violated in Venezuela,” Rodriguez said.
Within Venezuela, authorities of some independent public and private universities, the pro-opposition student leader Juan Requesens, and two U.S. embassy officials were also accused of involvement in alleged destabilisation plans.
Rodriguez revealed that 58 individuals with foreign nationality had been arrested while participating in barricades, “almost all implicated in the use of arms”. They include Colombians, an American and a Spaniard, and two of those arrested had an Interpol code red out against them.
Opposition figures deny that the protests and disturbances were a destabilisation strategy to remove President Nicolas Maduro from office, arguing that these were spontaneous demonstrations over economic problems and “authoritarian” government practices.
However while some protests were peaceful and exhibited a range of opposition grievances, a key demand by many protest leaders and on the violent street barricades was Maduro’s “exit” from office. Regular riots in the wealthy east of Caracas and other affected areas also caused significant damage to property, government offices, public transport, supermarkets and free health clinics.
The unrest led to 41 deaths and almost 800 wounded, with opposition activists, government supporters, other civilians and National Guard officers among the fatalities.
Life has gradually returned to normal in affected areas, after the final street barricades were removed last month. Sporadic small protests and acts of violence continue however.
Small groups of opposition students in the city of San Cristobal, in the western state of Tachira, protested their local universities’ return to classes today. One group burned a truck belonging to state oil company PDVSA, and clashes with police also took place, leading to several arrests.
Rodriguez said in his presentation on Friday that the militant opposition had now activated a campaign of “targeted violence” after the failure of the street barricades. He placed the assassination of prominent pro-government politician and activist, Eliecer Otaiza, within that context.