Dissident Venezuelan Officer Detained

A National Guard captain who publicly called for President Hugo Chavez's resignation will be detained for 15 days, military authorities said.

National Guard Cmdr. Francisco Landis said Chavez ordered the arrest of Capt. Pedro Flores on the recommendations of a military council investigating his case.

Earlier this month, Flores joined Air Force Col. Pedro Soto in publicly calling for Chavez' resignation and for the formation of a civilian junta to govern until elections could be held.

Flores' conduct "was not appropriate given his condition as an active officer," Landis said.

Flores will begin the detention Monday, Landis said.

Soto was discharged Thursday. The military is deciding whether to sanction Navy Vice Adm. Carlos Molina Tamayo, who was the third dissident officer to speak out.

The three officers said soldiers resented being forced into civil duties — painting schools, fixing roads, and managing bargain food markets — under one of Chavez's flagship development programs.

They also accused Chavez, a leftist former coup leader, of polarizing Venezuelan society by constantly feuding with the business elite, the Roman Catholic Church and the local news media.

Flores, Soto, and Molina all claim there is widespread discontent within the armed forces and have warned against the possibility of a military coup.

Chavez and commanding military officers insist the armed forces support the government and the dissident officers have not sparked unrest within the ranks.

"We are loyal to the president of the republic," Gen. Lucas Rincon, inspector of the armed forces and the military's highest-ranking officer, told about 200 military officers.

Elected in 1998 with overwhelming support from Venezuela's poor majority, Chavez has watched his popularity plummet to below 30 percent because of frustration with rampant crime, corruption, and unemployment.