Venezuela's Maduro accuses rival of "conspiring" against country

CARACAS Sat Feb 2, 2013 6:55pm EST

Venezuela's Vice President Nicolas Maduro shows a document which he said has the signature of ailing President Hugo Chavez as he speaks to state TV after arriving from Cuba in Caracas January 26, 2013. REUTERS/Miraflores Palace/Handout

Venezuela's Vice President Nicolas Maduro shows a document which he said has the signature of ailing President Hugo Chavez as he speaks to state TV after arriving from Cuba in Caracas January 26, 2013.

Credit: Reuters/Miraflores Palace/Handout

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CARACAS (Reuters) - Venezuelan Vice President Nicolas Maduro accused opposition leader Henrique Capriles on Saturday of "conspiring" against the OPEC nation during meetings in neighboring Colombia, stepping up his attacks on his most likely potential election rival.

The government is upbeat about President Hugo Chavez's recovery from cancer surgery in Cuba. But the socialist maverick has not been seen in public or heard from in eight weeks, calling into question the future of his self-styled revolution.

Any new vote in South America's top oil exporter would probably pit Maduro, Chavez's heir apparent, against Capriles, the 40-year-old governor of Miranda state, who lost to Chavez in last October's presidential election.

Maduro has been sharpening his rhetoric against the opposition leader, and the former bus driver said on Saturday he was being kept informed about a series of meetings Capriles was holding during a trip to Colombia that began on Friday.

"The information reaching us is not good," Maduro said, wearing a hard hat during a televised visit to a tractor factory in Portuguesa state, in the west of the country.

"We know who he met with, and where, conspiring against the country and against peace ... in a few hours we are going to say what that loser was doing against the fatherland in Colombia."

Capriles responded on Twitter, saying Maduro was the real conspirator and traitor because he was "receiving orders from Cuba's government and giving away Venezuela's money overseas."

"It's a big job for Mr. Maduro! Keep ranting to cover your inability. That's what the mediocre are like, screamers!"

Capriles also tweeted a photo of himself meeting Spain's former prime minister, Felipe Gonzalez, in Bogota, and said he had enjoyed a long talk with Gonzalez, a "great friend of our Venezuela."

Earlier this week, Maduro said "honest, patriotic" lawmakers from the ruling party would present proof next Tuesday of "immense corruption" involving a senior figure in Primero Justicia, the party Capriles helped found in 2000.

OPPOSITION STRAINS

Opposition leaders, who accuse the government of secrecy over Chavez's condition, say Maduro is in campaign mode and merely seeking to copy his boss' vitriolic attacks on them.

The government, which says it has never been more transparent about the 58-year-old Chavez's health, says he has completed a complex post-operative period following the December 11 surgery, and has started a "new phase" of his recuperation.

Maduro said Chavez was recovering gradually and held talks in Havana on Friday with Diosdado Cabello, the head of the National Assembly, and Defense Minister Diego Molero.

The president has never said exactly what type of cancer he is suffering, only that it was diagnosed in his pelvis in mid-2011. He has since undergone four operations in Cuba, and weeks of chemotherapy and radiation treatment.

While his fragile health could spell an end to Chavez's 14 years in power, the pressures of the situation have exposed old strains between moderates and more hard-line members of the opposition's five-year-old Democratic Unity coalition.

It is made up of some 30 ideologically diverse political groups that chose Capriles as a unity candidate to run against Chavez in last year's election.

Despite their differences, they are likely to pick Capriles again to face Maduro, should Chavez step down or die and a new vote was held within 30 days, as laid out in the constitution.

After chatting with workers and inspecting farm machinery in Portuguesa, the vice president slammed Capriles and two other top opposition figures: the coalition's policy architect, Ramon Guillermo Aveledo, and Caracas Mayor Antonio Ledezma

"They're a trio of wrecks with a history of defeat and treason," Maduro said. "They must know that if our people see the proof that has been prepared of their plot ... it is just going to radicalize us even more."

During Capriles' absence in Colombia on Friday, the government launched a high-profile anti-crime operation involving more than 2,000 officers in his state, Miranda, which includes crime-ridden parts of the capital, Caracas.

The interior and justice minister, Nestor Reverol, used the event to criticize the opposition governor for his trip outside the country.

"Instead of being in Colombia, meeting the paramilitaries, you should be here supervising the deployment and ensuring people's safety," Reverol said on state TV, flanked by commanders of the security forces and scores of National Guard troops lined up on motorcycles.

(Editing by Peter Cooney)

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Comments (1)
mtllove wrote:
I am Venezuelan, and am living the life that Comandante Chavez has chosen for all Venezuelans. Let me tell you about the truth of life here. Electricity is turned of a few hous a day for rationing. Travel out of the country is near impossible because our money here is controlled and we can not buy foreign currency, we buy on the black market at a rate of 17 bolivars to the dollar, the official rate is 4.3 now thats some serious inflation! Going to the grocery store, there is limited items and the shelves are bare. Coffee, sugar, meat, chicken, milk, oil, have become precious comodities because President Chavez has taken control of the producers of these products and basically run the companies into the ground. Yes you can go to the subsidized Mercal stores, but the products are also limited and of really bad quality. Going out you risk your life, murders and kidnapings are the norm here. I don’t know were all these pseudo socialists that rant here have gone in Venezuela to see all these improvements they talk about. Even President Chavez does not get treated in the hospitals here, because of the constant energy blackouts and the lack of medicines. Our infrastucture is falling apart, bridges falling and streets with the size of craters. All this as Chavez gives oil to the “poor” living in the Bronx, New York, and giving oil to Cuba for exchange of culture and doctors, while our own doctors are out of work. I can’t eat Cuban Culture and we Venezuelans have our oun culture, no need to import it. Its a mess here and I welcome any and all of the commentators of this site that love Chavez to come to Caracas, I will be happy to show them around.
Chavistas, also known here as the “Boliburgueses” are becoming the super wealthy, look up the president of the national assembly, Diosdado Cabello , he is to take over as president (temporarily) if Chavez dies. this guy just built the biggest shopping mall on Margarita Island. He has become rich (Billionaire, in 12 years, no joke) since Chavez took power. He was a military guy before, helped Chavez when tried to topple goverment in the 90′s. And like him the Chavistas in power are buying up south Florida.
Wake up people ! Its just a power struggle, and these Chavistas are milking it to the very end, even if they have to swear in a dead Chavez to do it! And as far as the Cubans are concerned they are terminaly scared to lose this gravey train known as Chavez.
The Chavistas don’t care about the poor, they are like livestock to them, feeding them enough bull to keep them happy and making sure they hate the people that produce wealth, telling them that if someone is weathy its because they stole it from the poor. Talk about being misguided! Envy is definitly the root to all evils, and Socialism is the king of producing Envy.
Peace out, “La Pinga”

Feb 03, 2013 6:16am EST  --  Report as abuse
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