Inside the secret plot to turn senior Venezuelan officials against Maduro


Late one night in April, a week before Venezuela’s opposition launched its abortive uprising, four men sat on the terrace of the hillside compound in Caracas belonging to the chief justice of the country’s Supreme Court. The dim lights of the capital twinkling below them, they sipped Fiji bottled water as they plotted the ouster of President Nicolás Maduro.

Maduro’s spy chief, Gen. Christopher Figuera, and Cesar Omaña, a 39-year-old Venezuelan businessman based in Miami, were trying to seal a deal hashed out over weeks with Maikel Moreno, the chief justice, according to one of the participants in the meeting. Figuera and Omaña were part of the plan to force Maduro out, but they needed Moreno’s help.

Moreno, sitting before an ashtray laden with the stubs of Cuban cigars, appeared to be having doubts. The 53-year-old jurist voiced concerns about Juan Guaidó, the U.S.-backed opposition leader who would become the nation’s interim president if the plot succeeded.

Then, according to the participant, Moreno offered another candidate to “temporarily” lead the broken country – himself.

“In the end, he was trying to safeguard his own power play,” one senior opposition figure said.

This account is based on hours of interviews with three people familiar with the talks: the participant, a senior opposition official who was kept informed on the developments, and a senior U.S. official briefed on the talks. The account also sheds new light on the key question of what went wrong in the Venezuelan opposition’s high-stakes move to oust Maduro on April 30.

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