Venezuela's vice president says he's target of assassination plot

CARACAS Wed Jan 23, 2013 6:59pm EST

1 of 2. Venezuela's Vice President Nicolas Maduro (L) and Venezuela's National Assembly President Diosdado Cabello (R) greet supporters during a rally to commemorate the 55th anniversary of the collapse of the last Venezuelan dictatorship in Caracas January 23, 2013.

Credit: Reuters/Jorge Silva

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CARACAS (Reuters) - Venezuelan Vice President Nicolas Maduro said unidentified groups had entered the country with the aim of assassinating him and the head of the National Assembly as President Hugo Chavez recovers from cancer in Cuba.

Maduro provided no proof of the claim, made at a rally on Wednesday to mark the end of a dictatorship in the OPEC nation 55 years ago, but he said action would be taken shortly.

"For several weeks we've been following groups that have infiltrated the country with the aim of making attempts on the life of (Assembly head) Diosdado Cabello and my own," Maduro told a crowd of red-shirted "Chavista" supporters. "They will not manage it against either of us."

Chavez named Maduro as his preferred successor before he went to Cuba in early December for surgery, his fourth operation in 18 months for an undisclosed form of cancer in his pelvis that was first diagnosed in mid-2011.

Chavez has not been seen in public nor heard from since then. Venezuela's government says his condition is improving after he suffered multiple complications caused by the December 11 surgery.

Officials say he is in "good spirits" but no date has been set for his return home. Maduro said he and the energy minister would travel to Havana on Wednesday to see Chavez.


Uncertainty over the 58-year-old president's fragile health has raised the specter of political instability in the deeply polarized South American country of 29 million people.

During his 14 years in power, Chavez has repeatedly accused Venezuela's "traitorous" opposition leaders of plotting to kill him, but offered little proof.

The opposition says the charges are a smokescreen to distract from Venezuela's daily problems such a shortages of staple goods, high inflation and one of the worst crime rates in the world.

"Now Maduro comes with the little story that we want to see an attempt against his life and that of Al Capone," opposition leader Henrique Capriles said on Twitter, referring to Cabello as the Prohibition-era U.S. gangster. "Absolute nonsense!"

Both the opposition and the ruling Socialist Party had originally planned large marches for Wednesday January 23.

It is an emotive date for Venezuelans that recalls the day in 1958 when military dictator Marcos Perez Jimenez fled the country amid widespread riots and a coup by rebel soldiers.

That had raised the possibility of supporters clashing in the streets, but the opposition subsequently decided to hold a meeting instead at a large hall in eastern Caracas.

In the city center, three separate marches by Chavez supporters converged on the 23 de Enero neighborhood, which was named after the day Jimenez was toppled from power. The demonstrations were smaller than other protests held in recent months.

Wearing a red and white tracksuit and speaking from the stage, former bus driver Maduro said the words the opposition used about him and Cabello - an ex-army buddy of Chavez - betrayed their disdain for Venezuela's poor.

"It is the condescending language of an oligarchy that will never understand who we are, who Chavez is, who the people are," Maduro told the crowd, many of whom waved posters of Chavez or wore T-shirts emblazoned with the image of his eyes.

"They say 'We must to get rid of that little lieutenant and that bus driver,'" Maduro said. "Don't be surprised by the actions that are taken in the coming hours and the coming days. The criminals who infiltrate our country can't ask for mercy."

(Editing by Andrew Cawthorne)

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Comments (18)
DeanMJackson wrote:
As I commented to the January 13 Reuters’ article captioned, “Hugo Chavez’s condition improving: Venezuela”:

“As I’ve been saying since the media has been reporting Hugo Chavez came down with cancer, the man does not have cancer, nor is he ill in any other manner. This is a simple deduction due to the 15,000 Cuban doctors Venezuela has in-country. In fact, those Cuban doctors in Venezuela are among Cuba’s best.

So why the malingering? Initially I believed it was for consultations with Cuban officials on the release of Fidel Castro’s death; Fidel died seven years ago. Another possibility that recently entered consideration is that whenever credible intelligence of an assassination attempt comes Chavez’s way, he naturally takes cover by feigning illness, which allows him to go underground.”

Well, we now know that Hugo Chavez takes flight (and he probably is still in Venezuela!) when credible reports of assassination comes his way. Makes sense, since releasing such politically dynamite revelations to the Venezuelan people would send Venezuela and the United States on a course for war, which is not what Hugo Chavez’s Communist allies in Moscow and Beijing want.

Jan 23, 2013 7:00pm EST  --  Report as abuse
MadCharles wrote:
When finished we have a few here..

Jan 23, 2013 7:18pm EST  --  Report as abuse
DeanMJackson: You really need to quit smoking that stuff because you sound really, really bizarre. All those assumptions and imaginative theories you present with not the least bit of fact based evidence to suport them. Amazing stuff, worthy of Rod Serling, almost. I very curious if we are both from the same planet. On what exacly do you base all these little tid bits of information? Did you hack into the CIA’s intelligence files or do you just, as I am most inclined to believe, have a very over active imagination and would have great difficulty finding Venezuela on the map.

Jan 23, 2013 7:39pm EST  --  Report as abuse
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