Caracas, Venezuela – The Venezuelan government announced Monday the capture of nine Colombian paramilitaries who entered the country to carry out "a mission in Caracas" that may have entailed an attack on President Nicolás Maduro.
"Undoubtedly, all this can be part of a plan that is being orchestrated from there (neighboring Colombia) to attack the life of our president and against the stability of the Bolivarian government," the interior minister, Gen. Miguel Rodríguez Torres, told reporters.
The first group of Colombian intruders was intercepted in Tachira state in possession of an AK-47 assault rifle, a shotgun, three handguns and two grenades.
Another contingent, apprehended in Guanare, was carrying an AR-15 assault rifle, a handgun and uniforms with insignia of the Venezuelan army, the minister said.
The second group also had a "black box" from an aircraft and a case holding various pieces of avionics.
The detainees told Venezuelan authorities that though they were en route to Caracas to carry out a mission, they had yet to be given precise instructions.
They also suggested that a third group of Colombian paramilitaries was already in the Venezuelan capital, Rodríguez said.
News of the capture came a few days after Maduro reiterated accusations that Colombia's former president, Alvaro Uribe, is leading a plot against his government.
The Venezuelan head of state also alleged that current Colombian counterpart Juan Manuel Santos knew of Uribe's activities and failed to alert Caracas.
Relations between Colombia and Venezuela, which reached a nadir toward the end of Uribe's 2002-2010 tenure, have improved dramatically under Santos, despite the broad ideological gulf that separated him from the leftist government of Venezuelan President Hugo Chávez.
The picture darkened after the April 14 special election to choose a replacement for Chávez, who died March 5 after a long battle with cancer.
Opposition candidate Henrique Capriles refuses to accept his narrow loss to Maduro, Chávez's designated successor, and has been seeking support from outside Venezuela.
Maduro's administration reacted angrily after Santos received Capriles.
Rodríguez said that while some will mock the Maduro government's concerns, Venezuela's experiences justify vigilance.
He noted attacks against diplomatic missions in Venezuela in 2003 and the apprehension of more than 100 Colombian paramilitaries the following year.
The minister did not even mention the April 2002 coup that briefly unseated Chávez.