Venezuela's military on Wednesday reaffirmed its support for President Nicolas Maduro following the arrest of three air force generals accused of plotting a coup amid ongoing anti-government protests.

The men and women of the Venezuelan military are "protecting our people, guarding our homeland's sovereignty and supporting the constitutionally elected president and commander-in-chief," the Bolivarian National Armed Forces, or FANB, said in a statement.

The FANB spoke out a day after Maduro announced that three unnamed air force generals were in the custody of military prosecutors on suspicion of plotting against the leftist government.

Mid-level officers grew alarmed when they realized that the three generals "were organizing a coup d'etat," the president said.

The FANB "remains monolithic" in its commitment to democracy, the military brass said, insisting that the armed forces are neither "elitist" nor insulated from the concerns of ordinary Venezuelans.

The FANB statement also condemned the deaths of 35 people in violence associated with the anti-government protests that began Feb. 12.

Fatalities include both opponents and supporters of the government, as well as bystanders and members of the security forces.

Authorities have charged more than a dozen police and soldiers with violating the human rights of demonstrators, while the government likewise accuses radical opposition elements of fomenting violence.

Chavez, Maduro's predecessor and political mentor, was removed from office for 48 hours in April 2002 in a putsch engineered by military brass, opposition politicians and leaders of the business community.

The former paratrooper was restored to power by a combination of mass street protests and the unwillingness of some military commanders to countenance the removal of an elected president. EFE