Venezuela Plot Claims Are ‘Outlandish Allegations,’ U.S. Says

The U.S. State Department said today claims by Venezuelan officials of U.S.-based plots to destabilize the South American country are “unsubstantiated and outlandish.”

Venezuela’s government has stepped up its anti-U.S. rhetoric after former President Hugo Chavez’s death from cancer March 5 triggered snap elections scheduled for April 14. His handpicked successor, acting President Nicolas Maduro, said he has evidence that former U.S. officials are plotting to assassinate opposition candidate Henrique Capriles Radonski as a way of inciting a coup. Foreign Minister Elias Jaua yesterday suspended talks with U.S. Assistant Secretary of State for Western Hemisphere Affairs Roberta Jacobson after U.S. officials were expelled from Venezuela. Maduro accused them of seeking to destabilize Venezuela by meeting with military officials.

“We categorically reject allegations of U.S. government involvement in any plots to destabilize the Venezuelan government or to harm anyone in Venezuela,” State Department spokesman Patrick Ventrell said in an e-mailed statement. “The repetition of unsubstantiated and outlandish allegations by Venezuelan officials about U.S.-based plots is disappointing.”

Venezuela and the U.S. clashed repeatedly during Chavez’s 14-year rule as the former tank commander accused the country’s main oil client of complicity in an attempt to overthrow him in 2002. He formed an alliance of Latin American countries against what he called U.S. hegemony in the region.

Chavez, who defeated Capriles by 11 percentage points in an election in October, also said he had evidence of a plot to kill his rival, six years after making a similar claim ahead of the 2006 election.

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