The former spy chief to embattled Venezuelan president Nicolas Maduro has revealed new details of the plot to oust him including code names, secret meetings and a back channel to the Americans.
Gen. Manuel Ricardo Cristopher Figuera, who fled the country after the plot collapsed in May, laid bare the full scale of the plan during an interview with The Washington Post.
Mr Figuera was head of the Venezuelan intelligence police force SEBIN but became disillusioned with Mr Maduro’s leadership as the country spiraled into economic and political chaos this year.
The decision by Juan Guaido, an opposition politician and leader of the National Assembly, to declare himself interim president in January triggered months of turmoil, splitting the international community.
Mr Figuera said that while in post he was taken aback by Mr Maduro’s apparent reliance on Raul Castro, the former brother of Fidel Castro who until last year was the Cuban president.
Mr Figuera also made allegations against Iris Varela, Mr Maduro’s prisons minister, claiming she demanded 30,000 rifles to arm male prisoners she had trained up.
The allegations have not been verified by this newspaper. The Washington Post said that requests for a response from Venezuelan government figures for their article produced no comment.
Mr Figuera claimed that he and other senior figures in the Maduro administration begun to plan how to oust the president, discussing declaring together in favour of Mr Guaido.
There were code names. Mr Figuera, an Afro-Venezuelan, said that he was known as “Black Panther”. Other figures involved were nicknamed “Superman” and “Child Eater”.
Mr Figuera said that Maikel Moreno, chief justice of Venezuela’s Supreme Court, and Vladimir Padrino Lopez, the defence minister, were involved in discussions about removing Mr Maduro.
He said that a back channel to the Americans had been established through his wife and that the plot would have involved the Supreme Court saying Mr Guadio’s claim was legitimate.
However the plot unraveled once it begun to become public, with Mr Lopez and Mr Moreno siding with Mr Maduro. Mr Figuera then fled the country and is now in America.