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Venezuelan President Nicolás Maduro announced Tuesday that three air force generals "linked to the ultraright" wing were arrested and accused of plotting a coup d'etat.
"Last night we captured three generals ... who tried to raise the air force against the legitimate, constitutional government," Maduro said on state TV during a meeting with South American foreign ministers in Caracas.
"They (the generals) were saying this was the decisive week to generate a coup d'etat in Venezuela," said Maduro. He added the generals were captured with the help of others in the air force.
He did not name the officers, but said the plot was revealed by colleagues of the generals who were "alarmed" when they heard of the conspiracy. The three were now in custody of military courts.
The latest announcement comes after five weeks of violent clashes that have left 35 people dead. Student groups and others have protested shortages of basic goods as well as high inflation and one of the worst rates of violent crime in the world.
Maduro made the statement from the presidential residence, Miraflores, where he met with officials from the Union of South American Nations (UNASUR). He said the group would participate in his National Peace Conference during their two-day visit.
He added that he would seek the group's help in investigating the "violence perpetrated by groups of vandals and the ultraright wing" which had caused the deaths in the recent unrest.
Maduro warned that if Venezuelan democracy were fractured, "Latin America and the Caribbean would go through a grave destabilization process."
NBC News' Sandra Lilley and Reuters contributed to this report.