US officials met Venezuela officers to discuss coup bid

Venezuela's President Nicolas Maduro speaks during the plenary session of Russian Energy Week in Moscow Russia on Oct. 4 2017

Officials from President Donald Trump's administration met secretly with Venezuelan military officers to discuss plans to oust President Nicolas Maduro but eventually decided not to help, The New York Times reported Saturday.

The Times article, based on interviews with USA officials and a Venezuelan former military commander who is seeking to overthrow Maduro, gave an account of several meetings that took place starting last fall and continuing into this year.

The White House declined to go into detail about the talks, but stressed the need for "dialogue with all Venezuelans who demonstrate a desire for democracy".

On Twitter, Venezuelan Foreign Minister Jorge Arreaza denounced "US government intervention plans and support for military plotting against Venezuela".

However, the USA has said it prefers an orderly and peaceful return to democracy.

Ernesto Londoño and Nicholas Casey, writers for the renowned New York Times, published a report Saturday detailing the exchanges between USA officials and Venezuela coup plotters.

"Right there in United States media, new and disgusting evidence is there to see", he said.

Venezuelan authorities arrested a military general and colonel and a dozen others in connection to the incident, which included an explosion near Maduro as he gave a speech August 4. He and other Venezuelan security members are accused of crimes including torturing critics, jailing hundreds of political prisoners, wounding thousands of civilians, trafficking drugs and collaborating with Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia, or FARC, which the United States considers a terrorist organization.

Around the same time, he said publicly that he would not rule out a "military option" to end the chaos there.

Maduro was elected despite outcry from almost a dozen nations, and has grown more unpopular as Venezuela continues in an economic tailspin, experiencing hyperinflation, severe power cuts, and food and medicine shortages. According to an ex-military commander in Venezuela, the U.S. dallied while coup plotters waited: "We were frustrated", he said.

One of the officials identified in the report as part of the meetings is known to USA officials as a corrupt officer, The Times reported.

The NY Times article claims that "in the fall of 2017, the diplomat reported that the Venezuelans didn't appear to have a detailed plan and had shown up at the encounter hoping the Americans would offer guidance or ideas".

They reportedly asked the attending US diplomat to supply them with encrypted radios, so as to "to communicate securely".



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