Skip to main content

Venezuelan leader: Pentagon, CIA involved in plot against country

By Catherine E. Shoichet, CNN
updated 11:18 AM EDT, Tue March 19, 2013
  • Nicolas Maduro says "factors in the Pentagon and the CIA" are conspiring
  • "We want to say to President Barack Obama, stop this madness," Maduro says
  • The U.S. "categorically rejects" the allegations, a State Department spokeswoman says

(CNN) -- Venezuela's interim leader has upped the ante in his accusations about U.S. plots to destabilize his country, calling on President Barack Obama to investigate.

"Factors in the Pentagon and the CIA" are conspiring as elections approach in the South American country, interim President Nicolas Maduro said this week.

"We want to say to President Barack Obama, stop this madness," Maduro said during a campaign planning meeting broadcast Monday on state-run VTV.

The United States has been denying a steady stream of accusations from the acting leader ever since the day he announced President Hugo Chavez's death. Monday was no exception.

Hugo Chavez's legacy
iReporters remember Hugo Chavez
What is Hugo Chavez's economic legacy?
Venezuelan interim president sworn in

"Let me say it here extremely clearly, looking right at you," State Department spokeswoman Victorial Nuland told reporters. "The United States categorically rejects allegations of any U.S. government involvement in any plots to destabilize the Venezuelan government or to harm anyone in Venezuela."

Hours before he announced that Chavez had died on March 5, Maduro said that a U.S. Air Force attache had been expelled from Venezuela and accused him of seeking military support for a plot against Chavez.

Chavez's criticisms of U.S. imperialism were a hallmark of his presidency and played well with his supporters.

And some analysts say it's no surprise that the accusations have escalated with Maduro on the ticket to replace Chavez in presidential elections April 14.

Maduro, meanwhile, has remained firm in his claims.

"I am saying the absolute truth," Maduro said, "because we have the testimonies and direct, first-hand information."

Last week Maduro announced that planning was in the works for a commission of "the world's best scientists" to investigate whether Chavez, who died after battling cancer, had been poisoned. Maduro stressed that he wasn't accusing the United States, but he implied that the United States could have been behind such an attack on Chavez.

In the 1940s and 1950s, the United States and other countries had "scientific laboratories testing how to cause cancer," Maduro said. "Seventy years have passed. These kinds of laboratories of evil and death have not advanced?"

Also last week, he accused Otto Reich and Roger Noriega -- two fierce critics of Chavez's government who once worked for the U.S. State Department -- of plotting to assassinate Henrique Capriles Radonski, the opposition candidate for Venezuela's presidency.

Reich and Noriega both denied the accusations and warned that it could be a sign that Venezuela's government was involved in a plot of its own against the opposition candidate.

"These charges are so removed from reality that they may well be a smoke screen behind which the Venezuelan government is planning to eliminate Capriles," Reich said in a Twitter post Sunday.

Noriega said Monday that Cuban officials could be behind the accusations, which he described as "no laughing matter."

"Of course, this is a baseless, malicious lie, but it should not be dismissed as a cynical campaign tactic," Noriega wrote in an online post.

Maduro has said his government was offering security for Capriles.

"This candidate knows that he has all the guarantees to conduct his campaign in liberty," Maduro said, "and we are going to avoid any craziness against him."

Part of complete coverage on
Hugo Chavez
updated 3:04 PM EDT, Thu April 11, 2013
split venezuela capriles maduro
Less than six weeks after President Hugo Chavez's death, Venezuelans will head to the polls Sunday to pick a new leader.
updated 12:36 PM EST, Fri March 8, 2013
The poor, usually marginalized by Latin American politicians, became Chavez's main weapon.
updated 7:46 AM EDT, Thu March 14, 2013
The plan to embalm the body of Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez may have hit a snag.
updated 10:31 PM EST, Fri March 8, 2013
The body of Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez is the latest in a long line of world leaders whose remains have been embalmed and displayed.
updated 5:38 AM EST, Wed March 6, 2013
Hugo Chavez, the polarizing president of Venezuela who cast himself as a "21st century socialist" and foe of the United States, died Tuesday.
What is your reaction to President Chavez's death? How do you think it will affect Venezuela's politics? How does is affect your country?
updated 6:07 PM EST, Tue March 5, 2013
CNN's Rafael Romo looks back at the life of recently deceased Venezuelan leader Hugo Chavez.
updated 2:07 PM EST, Tue March 4, 2014
Venezuela has been transformed while Chavez was in office. Browse through the picture to explore his legacy.
updated 4:56 PM EST, Tue March 5, 2013
A look back and the life and legacy of Venezuelan president Hugo Chavez. CNN's Jim Clancy reports.
updated 6:04 AM EST, Wed March 6, 2013
Hugo Chavez played key role in focusing attention on the poor. But Frida Ghitis says in the process of helping the poor, he undermined the democracy.
updated 8:38 AM EST, Fri March 8, 2013
Jesse Jackson: Chavez's death an opportunity for U.S. and Venezuela to heal relations.
updated 10:39 AM EST, Wed March 6, 2013
The death of the charismatic but controversial leader leaves many unanswered questions that Venezuela and the world must now grapple with.
updated 8:35 PM EST, Tue March 5, 2013
Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez sings with CNN's Larry King prior to his 2009 interview.
updated 9:06 AM EST, Wed March 6, 2013
News of Chavez's death drew impassioned reactions from around the world, as leaders and other public figures weighed in on his legacy.
updated 2:24 AM EST, Wed March 6, 2013
CNN looks back at some of the more memorable things President Hugo Chavez said during his life -- like calling George Bush the devil.
updated 5:34 AM EST, Wed March 6, 2013
He began his career as a bus driver, then rose through the ranks to become a member of Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez's inner circle.
updated 2:53 AM EST, Wed March 6, 2013
Chavez will be remembered for improving the wealth and political participation of the poor. But his death leaves an economy in tatters, some say.
updated 10:33 PM EST, Tue March 5, 2013
Kevin Spacey, Naomi Campbell, Diego Maradona. Browse through the pictures of Hollywood icons and global superstars that met Chavez.
updated 5:41 AM EST, Wed March 6, 2013
Chavez cultivated a larger-than-life appearance. But even after years in office, his legacy may be more fleeting than his outsize personality suggested.
updated 5:40 PM EST, Tue March 5, 2013
Watch: In a 2009 interview, Larry King talks to Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez about Obama and Venezeula's global role.
Get the latest news, analysis, commentaries and videos from Venezuela in Spanish language on CNN Español.