Of course stranger things have happened and from the outside it is
impossible to know without actually seeing the evidence. But neither claim
seems likely. Eighteen warplanes, depending on the model and whether they were
used or new would cost somewhere between $250 million and $1 billion and it is
hard to imagine who in the Venezuelan opposition would be willing to put
forward that much money for such a venture. Any actual belligerent action would
require extensive ground support, ammunition and ground troops. This does not
seem plausible even if it were free.
Paramilitary conspiracies against the Venezuelan government are,
of course, a possibility. But the timing seems unlikely. Assassination attempts
usually come from groups who feel threatened by strong leaders that oppose
their interests. But Maduro has struggled in his first two months and many
people in the opposition and in Chavismo doubt he will finish his term. It’s
not clear why right wing opponents of the Venezuelan government would want to
take him out violently.
Venezuela has a long and porous border with Colombia which means
in states close to that border there is extensive presence of guerrilla,
paramilitaries and all sorts of irregular groups involved in contraband,
kidnapping, and drug trafficking. Any given day of the week the Venezuelan
armed forces could round up some paramilitaries or other irregulars and accuse
them of whatever they want. So it would require some real concrete evidence
beyond mug shots to make this story plausible.