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Interior Minister Lucas Rincon alerted about possible terrorist acts that sectors of the opposition could be preparing to trigger a "Madrid effect" that could alter the outcome of the referendum. Almost all polls show Chavez winning the recall with an advantage ranging between 8 and 31 percent, depending on the poll.

Rincon said that the government has been implementing security measures for months in order to guarantee a peaceful and uneventful recall vote. The Minister said he will address the media on Monday to reveal the authorities’ latest findings having to do with the confiscation of an important amount of weapons and ammunition.

An arms cache valued at US$53 million was discovered in Brazil last month, which seems to have been destined for radical Venezuelan opposition groups seeking to sabotage the recall referendum. Tens of kilograms of C4 explosives and detonators have been stolen from military bases.

Colombian paramilitary investigation yields results

Venezuelan authorities recently announced the dismantling of a civilian-military group that sought to overthrow the government of Hugo Chavez with the aid of Colombian paramilitaries. Several civilians, some of them government employees, some retired, and three active military officers are being investigated in the case.

On Friday July 30th, Miguel Rodriguez, the director of Venezuela’s Preventive and Intelligence Services Directorate (DISIP) presented step by step how the plot was dismantled. In May of this year, a group of more than one hundred paramilitaries were captured at a farm near Caracas where the group was training in preparation for several attacks on government targets.

The Colombian paramilitaries entered Venezuelan territory with the help of immigration authorities in the bordering state of Tachira. Among the Tachira authorities being investigated are retired National Guard sergeant José Rafael Rojas and Immigration officer Julio Jaime Hernandez, who accused Rojas of ordering the transportation of the paramilitaries to Caracas. The national director of Immigration and Identification Services (ONIDEX) Ismael Serrano, who testified on Tuesday in relation to the case, said that Officer Hernandez worked at the Caracas ONIDEX headquarters and recently requested to be sent on commission to the regional office in Tachira alleging that his residency is in San Cristobal, the state capital of Tachira. Hernandez went into hiding after testifying before the Attorney General’s Office, and is being sought by authorities. Six other Immigration officers appeared before the Attorney General’s Office last Monday. Rojas was already charged with military rebellion.

Authorities revealed that the need to assassinate President Chavez was discussed at an April 23rd meeting at a house owned by Mr. Lion Delfino in Caracas’ Country Club. "Any operation that does not involve the killing of the President would be considered a failure," said one of the meeting’s participants, according to authorities who infiltrated the meeting. They also discussed targeting Colonel Jonathan Faría,who heads the National Guard’s 56th Garrison, Colonel Arcon Matos, some government buildings, as well as killing of members of pro-Chavez radical civilian groups in the 23 de Enero Caracas neighborhood. One of the participants at the Country Club meeting was an Air Force colonel who still has not been identified, and who proposed using an F-16 plane to bomb President Chavez during his weekly live TV show. The week when this shocking proposal was made, Chavez suspended his show, but authorities did not elaborate on whether this revelation prompted the show’s suspension.

The DISIP also accused ex-dictator Pedro Carmona Estanga of being involved in the plot from Colombia, where he lives under political asylum.

According to authorities, the day the paramilitary group was captured, Colombian paramilitary leader Jose Ayala also know as "Comandante Lucas", called businessman Gustavo Zingg Machado (Gustavo Quintero) right before being captured. Ayala and Zingg exchanged 73 phone calls before the capture. Right after talking to Ayala who was being detained, Zingg spoke 31 times with actor Orlando Urdaneta, an opposition TV personality, who participated in the April 2002 coup d’etat. Urdaneta was supposed to speak to an opposition major whose identity has not been released due to lack of further evidence, and arrange for the Caracas Metropolitan Police to allow the paramilitaries to mobilize around the city without being stopped by the police. A video recording in possession of the authorities shows "Comandante Lucas" acknowledging that he was brought to Venezuela by active officers of the Venezuelan Armed Forces.

Opposition lawmaker Liliana Hernandez of the conservative Justice First party, is also being accused of providing aid for the paramilitaries. The ex-secretary general of the Accion Democratica party Rafael Marin was mentioned by one of the captured paramilitaries as one of the financiers of the operation. One of the captured irregulars testified that Gen (ret.) Ovidio Poggioli, who is a former director of Venezuela’s main airport, also collaborated with the plan.

Cuban-Venezuelan businessman Robert Alonso, who owns the Caracas farm where the paramilitaries were based, was also named by investigators. Alonso remains at large.

Opposition politicians continue to argue that the capture of the Colombian paramilitaries was a hoax perpetrated by the government to divert people’s attention from the recall referendum.