Venezuela's President Nicolas Maduro salutes from a vehicle, next to his companion Cilia Flores, during a military ceremony recognizing him as Commander-in-chief along the Paseo de Los Proceres, or "Promenade of the Forefathers" in Caracas, Venezuela, Friday, April, 19, 2013. Maduro, who has the support of the Chavista bases, needs all the momentum he can muster to consolidate control of a country struggling with shortages of food and medicines; chronic power outages; one of the world's highest homicide and kidnapping rates. (AP Photo/Ariana Cubillos)
Venezuela's defense minister would never entertain the idea of supporting a military coup to unseat President Nicolas Maduro.
Adm. Diego Molero also said that Venezuela's military takes advice from Cubans but that they do not influence its decisions.
Molero's statements on Sunday during a television talk show appear to reflect official concern over the opposition's recent release of a recording allegedly showing an influential pro-government figure discussing coup rumors with a Cuban intelligence officer, a conversation that seemed to highlight Cuban influence in the oil-rich nation.
In the lengthy conversation, the purported voice of influential TV talk show Mario Silva discusses a power struggle between Maduro and National Assembly president Diosdado Cabello, whom he accuses of conspiring against the president amid rumors of "saber rattling" in the military.
The speaker on the recording suggests Cabello's allies are behind false rumors that Molero might back an attempt to oust Maduro, who is close to Cuba's leaders and is said by analysts to have less backing in the military. Silva alleged the recording was a fraud, but his show was pulled from state TV after the conversation's release.
Maduro squandered a double-digit lead in less than two weeks, but defeated challenger Henrique Capriles by a razor-thin margin on April 14 in an election to replace the late President Hugo Chavez.
On Sunday, former Vice President Jose Vicente Rangel asked Molero on his talk show if "democratic and institutional stability is guaranteed in Venezuela," if a coup attempt were possible.
Molero turned his head, looked straight into the camera and responded: "It's impossible."
"I am a loyal guarantor of the constitutional concept that Maduro remain in the government until the people decide otherwise," Molero said, adding for emphasis: "It's impossible that such an idea would go through my head."
Capriles has repeatedly complained about what he calls Cuba's growing influence over Venezuela's government and military under Maduro, whose first postelection foreign trip was to Havana.
Cabello has denied plotting against Maduro and called for unity among the political heirs of Chavez, who are struggling with widespread discontent over worsening food shortage, rampant power outages and decreasing oil production.
Molero did not provide details regarding Cuban military advice, saying only that Venezuela welcomes it, but makes its own decisions.
Maduro has defended his government's close ties with Cuba, whose economy depends on Venezuelan oil shipments worth $3.2 billion a year that account for about half its consumption.
Cuba partially pays for the oil in a barter deal, sending medics, sports trainers, political advisers and other professionals to Venezuela. The remainder is covered by 25-year, 1 percent interest loans.
Based on reporting by The Associated Press.