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Venezuela sends 'coup plotters' to jail

Wednesday, June 20, 2018

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CARACAS,Venezuela(AFP) — Five members of Venezuela's armed forces and three civilians were imprisoned today, convicted of taking part in a 2015 coup plot against President Nicolas Maduro, a prisoners' rights group said.

A military court handed down sentences of between three and six years, the group Foro Penal announced.

Maduro publicly denounced a coup plot in February 2015 that he said was backed by sectors of the opposition and financed by the US government.

The socialist president referred to it as the "blue coup" – a reference to the color of Venezuela's air force uniform, saying the plot had been "dismantled."

At the time, the socialist president said the plot involved bombing the Miraflores presidential palace, other government buildings and the headquarters of the statetelevision.

The US State Department dismissed the accusations.

Another rights group, Venezuelan Justice, said Wednesday that around 150 members of Venezuela's armed forces are in prison "for political reasons."

Maduro has presided over a free-falling economy since 2013, amid a collapse in the price of oil that has lead to chronic food and medicine shortages, and forced hundreds of thousands to flee Venezuela's growing deprivation.

Maduro has ordered the release of more than 120 prisoners since the beginning of June, as part of a policy to "heal the wounds" left over from deadly anti-government protests in 2014 and 2017.

The 55-year-old former bus driver and union activist controversially sealed a second six-year term last month in an election boycotted by the opposition and condemned as a sham by the United States and regional powers.

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