Venezuela’s Chavez purges military after coup

 

Venezuelan President Mr Hugo Chavez is purging the senior ranks of the armed forces and placing loyalists in command posts to prevent another rebellion.

Since the April 11-14th coup bid, in which Mr Chavez was briefly deposed by dissident officers and then restored by loyal troops, the president has reshuffled most of his military high command, some of whom were involved in the coup.

But the purge may be inflaming rather than reducing discontent in the divided military.

In the latest of a series of high-level changes, a general commanding an elite tank unit at Valencia west of Caracas was replaced by a colonel known to be loyal to Mr Chavez.

"Putting a colonel in place of a general shows there is a lack of trusted figures among the generals," said analyst Mr Alberto Garrido, an author of several books about Mr Chavez, who staged a botched coup in 1992 six years before winning elections.

Mr Garrido said that up to 100 officers, including many generals and admirals, were under investigation for their possible role in last month's coup. But only six so far have been notified they face charges.

Even before the coup bid, opposition to the president had been growing in the armed services. Dissident officers had criticised Mr Chavez's politicised leadership, leftist policies and ties with anti-US states such as Cuba, Libya and Iraq.