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9 Venezuelan military officers sentenced for ‘Operation Jericho’ coup plot to overthrow Maduro

9 Venezuelan military officers sentenced for ‘Operation Jericho’ coup plot to overthrow Maduro
Nine members of the Venezuelan armed forces have been imprisoned for taking part in a plot to overthrow President Nicolas Maduro five years ago, after courts rejected their final appeal.

The military men were sentenced to a minimum of five years in jail for “preparing in 2014 an insurrectional and destabilizing movement, called Operation Jericho, against the government,” according to a statement from the Venezuelan court. Their sentence was handed down after multiple appeals were rejected and dismissed by lower courts and a court-martial.

The convicted officers are all reportedly linked to prominent opposition politicians as well as the US government. Those sentenced include General Oswaldo Hernandez, retired Colonel Jose Delgado, Andres Thomas Martinez, and Captain Acacio Moreno Mora. Over 30 military officials were arrested in connection with Operation Jericho during March and April 2014.

The plot envisaged military detachments arresting Maduro and other high-ranking government officials, with the hope of inciting a “citizens’ revolt.” Reportedly planned over the course of two years, it was foiled in March 2014 after uninvolved military officers tipped off authorities.

Hernandez was also involved in 2015’s “Blue Coup,” having pre-recorded a message announcing the military’s overthrow of the Maduro government which would be played after the plotters assassinated the president and bombed multiple “strategic” targets in Caracas. The Blue Coup was also linked to opposition political figures, several of whom released a “Call for a National Transition Agreement” appealing to Venezuelans to support the overthrow of the Maduro administration less than a day before the plot was supposed to be set in motion.

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Maduro warned earlier this month that the US was collaborating with the Colombian and Brazilian governments to plot his ouster. Specifically, he called out national security adviser John Bolton, who named Venezuela as part of a Leftist Central and South American “Troika of Terror” in a grandstanding speech last month. Maduro claimed Bolton has organized the training and placement of over 730 mercenaries and paramilitaries to be deployed against the Venezuelan government, with the assistance of Colombian President Ivan Duque. He also blamed far-right elements backed by the US and Colombia for an apparent assassination attempt during an August military parade, in which he was seemingly targeted by an explosive-laden drone.

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US politicians including Senator Marco Rubio have reportedly pushed for Venezuela to be placed on the list of state sponsors of terrorism despite a lack of evidence indicating it belongs there, raising concerns that the Trump administration’s “regime change” rhetoric is more than just hot air, after multiple rounds of punishing sanctions have already crippled the nation’s economy.

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