Golpe Azul

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Golpe Azul (English: Blue Strike), also known as Operation Jericho, was an alleged coup d'état plan in Venezuela against the presidency of Nicolás Maduro, which reportedly would take place on 12 February 2015 and had several targets in Caracas. The name of the plan refers to the blue uniform of the Venezuelan Air Force in which several suspects were officers. Foro Penal declared that the accused suspects were political prisoners and that they were convicted without evidence, and its director Alfredo Romero [es] described the sentence as arbitrary.[1]

Based on the accusations, the metropolitan mayor of Caracas Antonio Ledezma was arrested in his office on 19 February by SEBIN officers. According to opposition reports, Golpe Azul is the twelfth coup d'état attempt that President Maduro denounces.[2][3][4]

Plot and arrests[edit]

On 12 February 2015, President Nicolás Maduro announced the alleged coup. Libertador Municipality Mayor Jorge Rodríguez, during a special broadcast of Con El Mazo Dando on state-run Venezolana de Televisión (VTV), denounced the participants of an alleged attempt planned by aviation general Oswaldo Hernández, who was convicted in May 2014 along with nine other military personnel for the crimes of rebellion and against military decorum.[5]

National Assembly president Diosdado Cabello announced the arrests of eight people in Aragua by officials of the Bolivarian National Intelligence Service (SEBIN) and the seizure of various equipment, including a computer with information on the tactical objectives of the coup group. He also showed maps allegedly located on the computer equipment of the protagonists of Golpe Azul, where buildings appeared in Caracas that were marked as tactical objectives such as the Miraflores Palace, the Public Ministry of Venezuela, the Caracas mayor's office, the Ministry of Defense headquarters, the Ministry of Interior, Justice and Peace building, the Supreme Tribunal of Justice (TSJ), the National Electoral Council (CNE), the Directorate General of Military Counterintelligence (DGCIM) and offices of Telesur.[6][7][8]

During the program, Mayor Jorge Rodríguez accused National Assembly deputy and opposition politician Julio Borges of choosing the places indicated as tactical objectives. Cabello also revealed the alleged possession of AR-15 rifles, grenades, military and security uniforms, as well as an eight-minute video with a statement from the protagonists. According to Cabello, the bombing would be carried out with a Tucano artillery planeafter publishing a statement in the national press requesting the government, among other things, the dissolution of public powers, the call for elections and the affiliation to organizations such as the International Monetary Fund (IMF) and later the military would issue a uniformed message where they would make a called the population to calm.

Arrest of Antonio Ledezma[edit]

Antonio Ledezma, metropolitan mayor of Caracas, arrested on 19 February 2015.

On 19 February 2015, Antonio Ledezma was detained by the Bolivarian Intelligence Service at his office in the EXA Tower in Caracas. In the operation, the security forces made warning shots to the air to disperse a crowd that was forming. He was then transported to SEBIN's headquarters in Plaza Venezuela. His lawyer declared that the charges for his detention were unknown.[9][10][11][12][13]

The New York Times stated that Ledezma was arrested by the Venezuelan Government after accusations made by President Nicolás Maduro about an "American plot to overthrow the government" that he presented a week before Ledezma's arrest.[14] Ledezma mocked the accusations stating that the Venezuelan government was destabilizing itself through corruption. The United States denied the accusations by President Maduro and stated that "Venezuela’s problems cannot be solved by criminalizing dissent".[14]

Response to arrest[edit]

Following the news of the arrest of Ledezma, his supporters quickly created protests and called the arrest a "kidnapping" and that the coup conspiracy was created for political purposes.[14] Hours after the news broke, hundreds of Ledezma supporters gathered in a Caracas plaza to denounce his arrest.[14] Protesters also gathered outside of the SEBIN headquarters.[10]

Human rights groups quickly condemned Ledezma's arrest and the similarity of the case to Leopoldo López's arrest was noted by The New York Times.[14] Amnesty International condemned Ledezma's arrest calling it politically motivated, noting the similar cases of arrests made by the Venezuelan Government in what Amnesty International described as "silencing dissenting voices".[15] Human Rights Watch demanded his release with Human Rights Watch's Americas division director, Jose Miguel Vivanco, stating that without evidence, Ledezma "faces another case of arbitrary detention of opponents in a country where there is no judicial independence".[14][16]

Imprisonment[edit]

In March 2015, the court ordered Ledezma to be taken at the Ramo Verde military jail, where he would be imprisoned before standing trial. On the same month, former socialist Prime Minister of Spain, Felipe González, agreed to take over the defense of Ledezma in his trial after Ledezma's family requested his assistance.[17] Two months later, he was sent back home for health reasons, where he had been placed under house arrest and unable to express himself publicly.[18]

On 1 August 2017, Ledezma (along with Leopoldo López) were re-arrested by SEBIN, which did not file any legal arrest warrant. According to the pro-Maduro Venezuelan Supreme Tribunal of Justice, it said that it had received intelligence reports alleging the two were trying to flee Venezuela. The court also said that it had revoked Mr Ledezma's and Mr López's house arrest because they had made political statements relating to the 2017 Venezuelan Constituent Assembly election.[19] Lopez and Ledezma were sent to Ramo Verde prison and Ledezma was released back to house arrest on 4 August.[20]

Escape from house arrest[edit]

On 17 November 2017, Ledezma slipped past guards and fled to Colombia. He departed the same day from El Dorado International Airport in Bogotá to Adolfo Suárez Madrid–Barajas Airport in Madrid, Spain. Upon landing he declared he would continue his fight of opposition to the Venezuelan Government and was reunited with his family.[citation needed]

Trial[edit]

The eight defendants, three civilians (Pedro Maury, Jesus Salazar and Luis Colmenares) and five military officers of the Venezuelan Air Force (Ricardo José Antich, Luis Lugo, Peter Moreno, Carlos Esqueda, Henry Salazar and Laided Salazar) were sentenced in the second military court of Maracay on 12 January 2017. Captains Ronald Ramírez and Jackson García were witnesses at the trial.[21]

They were witnesses promoted by the Prosecutor. They were taken as experts in these aircraft to tell at the trial if these soldiers were able to fly some Sukhoi that were in Lara, they alone without help, to give a coup d'etat. And the answer of these two witnesses, very professional, was no, that to artillery a plane for a rebellion 14 people were needed and they were eight. They also accused the military that they were going to bomb Caracas and some buildings aboard those Tucano planes and they also asked both of them. They explained that it was impossible to move those bombs in a way other than by land, and that those bombs were not in Lara but in Guárico, Zulia and in the east. In addition, the trial showed that the planes could not be used because they had the landing gear damaged.

— Carlos Javier Salazar, lawyer of Laided Salazar, captain sentenced to eight years and seven months for crimes of instigation to rebellion and against military decorum.

On 26 December 2018, the sentence was ratified by the TSJ.[22]

References[edit]

  1. ^ "Condenaron a militares y civiles involucrados en el "Golpe Azul"". El Nacional. 12 January 2017. Archived from the original on 24 July 2017. Retrieved 8 August 2017.
  2. ^ "Detenido el alcalde Antonio Ledezma, acusado de formar parte de conspiración golpista". Retrieved 19 February 2015.
  3. ^ "Maduro: Ledezma fue capturado por orden de la Fiscalía y será procesado". Archived from the original on 20 February 2015. Retrieved 19 February 2015.
  4. ^ "Maduro manda detener al alcalde de Caracas". Retrieved 20 February 2015.
  5. ^ Martín, Karina (12 January 2017). "Venezuela: condenan a militares y civiles por supuesto intento de golpe en 2015". PanAm Post. Retrieved 8 August 2017.
  6. ^ "Cabello devela detalles del "Golpe Azul" que fue desarticulado por cuerpos de seguridad". Correo del Orinoco. 12 February 2015. Retrieved 8 August 2017.
  7. ^ "Sentenciados 8 oficiales por "Operación Jericó"". Panorama. 7 May 2015. Retrieved 8 August 2017.
  8. ^ "Venezuela: Operación Jericó, el plan golpista que fue desmantelado". Telesur. 13 February 2015. Retrieved 8 August 2017 – via YouTube.
  9. ^ "Venezuela on the Brink". PrimePair. Archived from the original on 2 April 2015. Retrieved 3 March 2015.
  10. ^ a b Sabin, Lamiat (20 February 2015). "Mayor Antonio Ledezma arrested and dragged out of office 'like a dog' by police in Venezuela". The Independent. Retrieved 20 February 2015.
  11. ^ "Sebin detuvo al alcalde Metropolitano Antonio Ledezma". El Universal. Retrieved 19 February 2015.
  12. ^ "Sebin se lleva detenido al alcalde Antonio Ledezma". La Patilla. Retrieved 19 February 2015.
  13. ^ "Detuvieron al alcalde Antonio Ledezma". El Nacional. Archived from the original on 2015-02-20. Retrieved 2015-02-19.
  14. ^ a b c d e f Gupta, Girish; Robles, Frances (20 February 2015). "Caracas Mayor Arrested on Sedition Accusation, Plunging Venezuela into New Crisis". The New York Times. Retrieved 20 February 2015.
  15. ^ "Amnesty International deplores actions against Mayor Ledezma". El Universal. 20 February 2015. Archived from the original on 21 February 2015. Retrieved 20 February 2015.
  16. ^ Vyas, Kejal (19 February 2015). "Caracas Mayor Detained By State Agents Antonio Ledezma, fierce critic of President Nicolás Maduro, taken away by armed agents". The Wall Street Journal. Retrieved 20 February 2015.
  17. ^ Prados, Luis (23 March 2015). "Felipe González defenderá a líderes opositores presos en Venezuela". El País. Retrieved 23 March 2015.
  18. ^ "Antonio Ledezma, alcalde de Caracas, cumplió dos años preso [Antonio Ledezma, mayor of Caracas, served two years in prison]". 19 February 2017.
  19. ^ "Venezuela key opposition leaders seized after poll". BBC. 1 August 2017. Retrieved 25 December 2019.
  20. ^ "Venezuela's new legislative superbody opens despite wide criticism". Reuters. 4 August 2017. Retrieved 25 December 2019.
  21. ^ Fernandez, Airam (18 September 2015). "Pilotos del Sukhoi fueron testigos en el caso de 9 militares acusados por operación "Golpe Azul"". Efecto Cocuyo. Archived from the original on 8 August 2017. Retrieved 8 August 2017.
  22. ^ http://globovision.com/article/tsj-ratifica-condena-a-militares-implicados-en-operacion-jerico