CARACAS, (Reuters) – Acting President Nicolas Maduro said yesterday that Venezuelan authorities have arrested several people suspected of plotting to sabotage one of his campaign rallies before an April 14 election by cutting the power.
Both sides have accused the other of dirty tricks during a bitter run-up to the vote to choose the successor to late socialist leader Hugo Chavez. Opinion polls give Maduro a double-digit lead over his opposition rival, Henrique Capriles.
“We’ve captured some of the saboteurs. … One was caught red-handed,” Maduro said in a televised meeting with commanders of the armed forces.
His late boss often dramatically unveiled alleged plots against his government, ranging from infrastructure sabotage to assassination plans.
“They were going to cut the electricity to the whole of Merida (state) while I was at the rally,” Maduro added.
“Who is directing this war against our country? … There are two options here: you are either for the fatherland or you’re against it.”
Maduro, who visited Merida on Wednesday, gave no other details about the arrests. He has ordered the military to tighten security at electricity installations.
Both sides are courting the military, which will play an important role in next Sunday’s election by guarding the voting materials and polling centers.
Defense Minister Diego Molero has made statements pledging the loyalty of the armed forces to Maduro – something Capriles complains is unconstitutional.
Campaigning on the Caribbean island of Margarita this week, Capriles said it was the duty of the armed forces to protect the will of the people on April 14.
He frequently says soldiers suffer from many of the same daily problems that trouble all Venezuelans: high crime rates, inflation, and poor public services.
The vote in the South American OPEC member of 29 million people will decide not only the future of “Chavismo” socialism but also control of the world’s biggest oil reserves and economic aid to a handful of left-leaning nations round the region.
The government held a ceremony at a military barracks on a Caracas hilltop to mark the exact one-month anniversary of Chavez’s death from cancer. Soldiers played bugles and fired cannons in honor of the leader who was seen as a savior by millions but derided as an autocrat by his critics.
Maduro stood with top government officials and members of Chavez’s family beside a marble sarcophagus where the former president’s remains are encased.
Capriles has also said that if he wins he will end “Cuban meddling” in the military. During his 14 years in power, Chavez forged close ties with communist-led Havana.