Coup Attempt in Caracas

CARACAS/BERLIN (Own report) - Serious allegations are being raised against a partner cooperating with Germany’s Friedrich Naumann Foundation (FDP) in the context of an attempted putsch: The US Bloomberg news agency has reported that opposition officers had planned to storm the presidential palace in Caracas, capture President Nicolás Maduro and stop the May 20 presidential elections. The conspiracy was discovered and several putschists were arrested in mid-May. According to Venezuela's military prosecutor’s investigations, an opposition politician María Corina Machado was involved in the attempted coup. Machado, who is said to be very popular within the military, denies the allegations. She is the leader of the "Vente Venezuela" party, which joined the "RELIAL" network last fall. The network was initiated and is backed by the Friedrich Naumann Foundation (FDP) and includes several parties who, in the past, have overthrown or attempted to overthrow democratically elected governments, for example in Honduras (2009) and in Paraguay (2012).

Operación Constitución

The - aborted - coup attempt, which had been prepared under the code name "Operación Constitución," was first mentioned publicly in late May by the vice-chair of the ruling Partido Socialista Unido de Venezuela (PSUV).[1] In late June, a more detailed report was published by the Bloomberg news agency in New York. This is the first time, since President Nicolás Maduro’s election, that "a coup attempt has been confirmed by western media," noted the web portal “amerika21," which specializes in Latin America.[2] The Bloomberg report draws its information from descriptions by participants as well as from investigations by the military court in charge of the case. The accounts from both sources concur to a large extent on essential points, Bloomberg writes.[3]

Plot to Overthrow the Government

According to these accounts, scores of officers from all branches of Venezuela’s armed forces were involved in the coup attempt. The fact that secret preparatory meetings were held in affluent neighborhoods of the country’s capital, indicate that wealthy circles in Caracas supported this plot - just like the plots in the past. Unspecified individuals and organizations from Colombia’s capital Bogotá were also involved. Obviously, the preparations were already in full swing in early 2017, when a wave of protests began to rock the country. Participants say the coup was first planned for April 2017, when the protests were reaching a climax, but they were forced to pull the plug, because another allegedly unrelated coup attempt was discovered. Plans were subsequently protracted. Ultimately, it was decided to act before or during the May 20 presidential elections. Officers were to storm the presidential palace, capture President Nicolás Maduro and stop the elections. But, the plan was discovered, and, in mid-May, several dozen officers and a few civilians were arrested and put on trial in a court martial.

Supporters of the Coup

Information about foreign support for this attempted coup is contradictory. Since the USA and other western countries had sponsored the 2002 coup attempt, suspicion runs high that foreign powers had also been involved in this one. The right-wing Primero Justícia opposition party, which had been involved in the 2002 coup attempt, has been provided special backing from Germany. Already in 2001, the CDU-affiliated Konrad Adenauer Foundation had supported it, euphemizing the attempted military coup as a "general protest," and began intensively cooperating with Primero Justicia during the years that followed. Last September, Chancellor Angela Merkel had received the founder of Primero Justícia Julio Borges in the German Chancellery, even though, according to reports from Washington's political establishment, he had been personally involved in the 2002 coup attempt. ( reported.[4]) Borges, who during the 2017 spring protests, had called on western banks to suspend Venezuelan government financial transactions, to throttle the country's economy, received the European Parliament's Sacharov Prize in December 2017.[5]

Sympathy from Washington

As reported by Bloomberg, in Caracas, the military court in charge of the case assumes that the attempted coup had had foreign support - at least from the United States and Columbia. Those involved in the attempt to overthrow the government, whom Bloomberg had interviewed, refute that they had had support from abroad, however they do admit that at least US and Columbian authorities had known of their plans - and shown their sympathy. On February 1, US Secretary of State at the time, Rex Tillerson responded to the question whether Washington supports a coup in Venezuela, saying the US favors a "peaceful transformation." "Maduro could just simply decide to leave. If the kitchen gets a little too hot for [Maduro], I am sure that he’s got some friends over in Cuba that could give him a nice hacienda on the beach."[6] Tillerson then left on a tour of several Latin American countries, avowedly to also bring their positions on Venezuela in line. How much German government officials knew is still unknown. Former Foreign Minister, Frank-Walter Steinmeier last visited Columbia in January 2017, where the situation in Venezuela was also discussed.

Popular in the Military

According to Bloomberg's contradictory information, the Venezuelan politician of the opposition, Maria Corina Machado possibly participated in the coup attempt. Machado maintains close relations to the United States, and is a welcome guest at such think tanks as the Center for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS). In May 2005, she was received at the White House, by President George W. Bush.[7] Accordingly, the US political establishment now takes her defense against the charges being raised by the military court, which, according to Bloomberg, includes her having been involved in the coup attempt. Machado and those of the putschists, who had been interviewed by Bloomberg, deny this categorically, Bloomberg points out that, according to polls, Machado is very popular among the Venezuelan military forces.[8]

Not the Brand Essence

The allegations against the Venezuelan opposition politician are also affecting German agencies. Machato and her "Vente Venezuela" party, founded in 2012, joined the RELIAL ("Red Liberal de América Latina") network last year. RELIAL was founded in 2004 on the initiative of - and is supported by - Germany’s FDP party-affiliated Friedrich Naumann Foundation. It currently includes 39 organizations from 17 Latin American countries. The network’s official address is the Nauman Foundation’s field office in Ciudad de México. The network’s members consider themselves"liberals." In recent years, some of them have organized or participated in coup attempts against democratically elected governments. Functionaries of RELIAL-member Partido Liberal de Honduras (PLH), for example, played a leading role in the June 2009 coup in Honduras.[9] The Partido Liberal Radical Auténtico, (PLRA), the party of the Paraguayan politician Federico Franco, who seized power in the June 2012 coup in Paraguay, is also a member of RELIAL. ( reported.[10]) Organizations belonging to the Naumann network were also previously involved in destabilizing efforts in Bolivia, when members of the traditional elites from the Bolivian lowlands were attempting to overthrow the government, supported heavily by the indigenous population in the Andean highlands.[11] Respect for democracy can hardly be seen as a brand essence of the Naumann network in Latin America.


[1] Diosdado Cabello denuncia nuevo plan conspirativo: la Operación Constitución. 30.05.2018.

[2] Harald Neuber: US-Medium bestätigt Putschplan vor Wahl im Mai in Venezuela. 02.07.2018.

[3] Zitate hier und im Folgenden: Ethan Bronner, Andrew Rosati, Fabiola Zerpa: Inside the Failed Plot to Overthrow Venezuelan President Nicolás Maduro. 27.06.2018.

[4] See also Talks in the Chancellery.

[5] Harald Neuber: EU-Menschenrechtspreis an Regierungsgegner aus Venezuela fragwürdig. 27.10.2017.

[6] Nick Wadhams: Tillerson to Seek Unified Venezuela Stance on Latin America Trip. 01.02.2018.

[7] White House Photos.

[8] Ethan Bronner, Andrew Rosati, Fabiola Zerpa: Inside the Failed Plot to Overthrow Venezuelan President Nicolás Maduro. 27.06.2018.

[9] See also The Naumann Caucus and Ein Amtsenthebungsverfahren.

[10] See also Ganz liberal geputscht.

[11] See also The Balkanization of South America.