Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro ordered the arrest of 11 members of the country’s Air Force, including a general, and a group of civilians for allegedly plotting a coup against his government.
Once again, he accused the U.S. of being directly involved in a failed attempt to assassinate him, saying some of the military involved had been granted visas as recently as Feb. 3.
"[Officials] from the U.S. embassy told them 'If this fails, you know, you have a visa to enter [the U.S.] from any of our borders,''' Maduro said during a TV show.
He said the officers had planned to use a military jet to bomb the Miraflores presidential palace. He provided no evidence or other details.
“Behind this coup there were officials of the United States involved,” Maduro said.
Diosdado Cabello, Congress president and loyal Chavista, said two opposition leaders and one businessman were among the detainees.
The allegations came on the day of the one-year anniversary of a bloody protest movement that took more than 40 lives in southern Venezuela.
Washington called the accusation “laughable.”
Maduro, as President Hugo Chavez did before him, frequently denounces what he says are coup attempts without providing specifics. Last year Maduro arrested several members of the military who he said were plotting to overthrow him.
A sea of men and women marched Thursday in San Cristóbal's streets, epicenter of last year's riots, to commemorate the deadly protest. Some youths covered their faces with bandanas and threw projectiles at police officers clad in riot gear, who fired tear gas canisters while onlookers ran in the opposite direction with young children in their arms.
At least five people were injured in the fighting, San Cristóbal Mayor Patricia Gutierrez said.
Meanwhile, in Caracas, young protesters set up a flaming barricade to shut down the main thoroughfare of a wealthy neighborhood where much of last year's protesting was centered. As dusk fell, some youths threw Molotov cocktails at police, who responded with rubber bullets.
Based on reporting by The Associated Press.
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