Venezuelan military personnel have been jailed in recent months for allegedly supporting US and Colombian efforts to overthrow the government, President Nicolas Maduro said in a television interview aired Sunday.
Maduro did not say how many members of the military had been arrested, and provided only a sketchy description of the alleged plots in the interview with private channel Televen.
But he said the armed forces had “dismembered” more than 47 attempts to recruit officials “to put them at the service of the strategy of Colombia and the gringos.”
“There are people in jail because of that. Some gave way and were bought and simply were discovered or intercepted with information from patriotic officials,” he said.
He said they were recruited to “steal missiles” and attempt to sabotage Sukhoi aircraft and radars, as well as naval torpedoes and missile defense systems.
Foro Penal, a human rights monitor, says there are 399 political prisoners in Venezuela, including 109 members of the military.
Maduro’s comments came against the backdrop of the resignation in Bolivia of Evo Morales, a close ally of Venezuela’s leftist regime.
Morales lost support of the military and resigned November 10 following three weeks of violent unrest over contested election results.
The Venezuelan opposition has taken heart from Morales’s departure from power after 14 years, but Maduro said such a scenario would not be repeated in his country.
The military “will not kneel ever again before the gringos, nor is it ever again going to put itself at the service of the oligarchy of this country,” he said.
He said “permanent intelligence” is in place to detect attempts to “divide and weaken” the armed forces, whose support is considered crucial to his government’s hold on power.