New president accuses Venezuela of trying to stage a military coup to keep Lugo in power
The armed forces tribunal of Paraguay on Thursday morning discharged ten generals who had met with the Venezuelan minister of foreign relations, Nicolás Maduro, in an alleged attempt to reverse the removal from office of then President Fernando Lugo.
The decision was made in an extraordinary session of the tribunal, led by the current Paraguayan president and commander in chief of the armed forces, Federico Franco. Among those fired are General Aldalberto Ramón Garcete, of the army, and Admiral Juan Carlos Benítez, of the navy, as well as the commander of the First Corps of the army, Juan Carlos Ayala. Also discharged was General Ángel Vallovera, armed forces chief of staff in the Lugo administration, suspected of chairing the meeting with Maduro.
After the impeachment of Lugo, the Paraguayan government released a video of a supposed meeting between Maduro and the high command of the armed forces. Paraguay accuses Venezuela of trying to stage a military coup to keep Lugo in office.
Last Wednesday, the military officers denied to Paraguayan prosecutor Stella Mary Cano that the Venezuelan minister had pressured them to turn against Franco, who is the former vice president in the Lugo administration.
The charge that Venezuela intervened along with the military officers was made by Paraguayan defense minister María Liz García on July 3. In the edited video, the Venezuelan chancellor appears in the company of members of the Paraguayan armed forces.
The next day, Maduro was declared persona non grata in the country, despite the revelation that other Unasur (Unión de Naciones Sudamericanas) ministers were also present.
The military officers admitted that at the time of the political trial of Lugo, on June 22, the possibility of the armed forces issuing a communiqué was debated but they did not do so. In the officers’ meeting with the Unasur representatives the possible consequences of the president’s removal were evaluated.
Cano admitted early this week that, contrary to what the defense minister had claimed, the recording, made with the security cameras at the government palace, does not prove García’s charge.
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