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3 Venezuelan generals arrested, accused of coup plot

By Catherine E. Shoichet, CNN
updated 7:18 AM EDT, Wed March 26, 2014
Venezuela's President says his country has arrested three air force generals accused of plotting a coup. (File photo)
Venezuela's President says his country has arrested three air force generals accused of plotting a coup. (File photo)
  • Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro says three generals were arrested
  • Maduro says the generals were plotting a coup
  • The arrests come after weeks of unrest and protests in Venezuela

(CNN) -- Venezuela's President says his country has arrested three air force generals accused of plotting a coup.

"Last night we captured three generals, who we had been investigating...three generals who were trying to turn the air force against the legitimately constituted government," President Nicolas Maduro said in remarks broadcast Tuesday on state-run VTV. "They were organizing a coup. This captured group has direct ties with sectors of the opposition, and they said that this week was the decisive week."

The generals, whom he did not name, will be charged in military court, he said.

Maduro revealed the arrests as he spoke to a commission of South American foreign ministers who are visiting his country as part of efforts to facilitate dialogue as political tensions mount.

Full interview: Maduro/Amanpour
What in the World? Venezuela protests

Weeks of clashes between opposition protesters and government forces have left at least 36 people dead, authorities say.

Protesters and government officials trade blame for the violence.

Last week, opposition leader Henrique Capriles Radonski blamed Maduro for fueling tensions.

"Nicolas threw gas on the fire. He and he alone will be responsible for how the situation develops," he said in a Twitter post.

In an exclusive interview with CNN's Christiane Amanpour this month, Maduro was unapologetic about his government's response to opposition protesters.

Think about what the U.S. government would do if a political group laid out a road map for overthrowing President Barack Obama, Maduro said.

"What would happen in the United States if a group said they were going to start something in the United States so that President Obama leaves, resigns, to change the constitutional government of the United States?" Maduro said. "Surely, the state would react, would use all the force that the law gives it to re-establish order and to put those who are against the Constitution where they belong."

READ: Protests rage in Venezuela, one month on

READ: Venezuela: What's the crisis about?

READ: Most neighbors silent as Venezuela reels

CNN's Elwyn Lopez contributed to this report.

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