Venezuela to charge opposition leader over alleged plot to kill Maduro

Venezuela's opposition leader Maria Corina Machado (C) gestures next to Lilian Tintori (L), wife of jailed opposition leader Leopoldo Lopez, as Machado arrives under a subpoena at a court in Caracas June 16, 2014. REUTERS/Carlos Garcia Rawlins

CARACAS (Reuters) - Venezuelan opposition leader Maria Corina Machado will be charged next week with involvement in an alleged plot to kill President Nicolas Maduro, the state prosecutor’s office said on Wednesday.

Ruling Socialist Party leaders in May accused a group of opposition activists including Machado of planning Maduro’s assassination to pave the way for a coup. Opposition critics dismissed the accusation as a charade based on forged documents.

Machado, a former legislator and high-profile adversary of the government, helped spearhead three months of protests earlier this year. She will be formally charged on Dec. 3, the prosecutor’s office said in a statement.

Via her Twitter account, Machado suggested the announcement was in retribution for demanding new leadership at the state elections council. A representative for Machado said she was not immediately available for further comment.

In May, prosecutors called her in to testify as a witness in the case. At the time, she dismissed the Socialist Party’s accusations as “infamy.”

The Socialist Party has frequently made high-profile accusations about opponents without providing strong evidence. Adversaries dismiss such campaigns as political stunts.

Government supporters point out that the opposition in 2002 staged a brief coup against late President Hugo Chavez and launched several national strikes as part of failed efforts to force him from office.

(The story is refiled to fix typographical error in paragraph 3.)

Reporting by Brian Ellsworth; Editing by David Gregorio