Venezuelan officers turn themselves in

Tuesday, February 12, 2002

CARACAS, Venezuela -- Two military officers who have been branded traitors by Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez for instigating protests against his government turned themselves in Monday under threat of arrest. Air Force Col. Pedro Soto and National Guard Capt. Pedro Flores were allowed to go home pending investigations, Air Force chief Gen. Regulo Anselmo Espin said.

Soto told hundreds of cheering supporters on Monday he would continue to challenge what he called "a tyranny that is always trying to stay in power."

Flores said his fellow Guardsmen "know that what I'm doing is a complete sacrifice for the national armed forces."

Chavez branded Soto "a traitor" over the weekend. Soto responded Monday: "I'd like to know who is the worse traitor -- the man who expresses his ideas or the man who sells out his country to the Colombian guerrillas."

Chavez repeatedly has denied speculation his leftist government supports Marxist rebels in Colombia. Colombia says Chavez has played a key role in attempts to start peace talks to end a 38-year civil war.

Soto and Flores have demanded Chavez resign and said they were speaking for most of Venezuela's military.

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