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U.S. calls coup claims by Venezuelan President 'ludicrous'

Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro says a U.S.-backed coup plot has been uncovered.

Story highlights

  • Accusations are "ludicrous," U.S. State Department spokeswoman says
  • "We have dismantled a coup attempt," President Nicolas Maduro says in a televised address
  • He says Venezuela's right-wing opposition groups and the U.S. government were behind the plot

(CNN)Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro says his government had blocked what he called a U.S.-backed coup plot that included plans to attack the presidential palace with a military jet.

"It is the government of the United States that is behind the plans of destabilization and coups against Venezuela. I have come here to denounce it. ... We have dismantled a coup attempt against democracy, against the stability of our homeland," Maduro said in a televised address Thursday. "It was an attempt to use a group of officials from the air force to provoke a violent act, an attack."
    He didn't name which members of the military were allegedly involved, but claimed that the U.S. government and right-wing opposition groups in Venezuela were behind the plan.
    U.S. State Department spokeswoman Jen Psaki on Friday dismissed the claims.
    "These latest accusations, like all previous such accusations, are ludicrous," Psaki said.
    "As a matter of long-standing policy, the United States does not support political transitions by non-constitutional means. Political transitions must be democratic, constitutional, peaceful and legal. We've seen many times that the Venezuelan government tries to distract from its own actions by blaming the United States or other members of the international community for events inside Venezuela," Psaki continued.
    "These efforts reflect a lack of seriousness on the part of the Venezuelan government to deal with the grave situation it faces," she said.
    Venezuelan authorities detained those involved in the plot on Wednesday and Thursday, Maduro said.
    Maduro said the plot centered around a plan to commandeer a Super Tucano jet and attack the presidential palace this week, or a public demonstration that he was attending.
    Other buildings were on the target list, he said, including the teleSUR network's headquarters and Venezuela's Defense Ministry.
    U.S. officials, he said, provided visas to those involved in the plot and paid them in dollars.
    It's not the first time the Venezuelan leader has lobbed serious accusations against the United States.
    Shortly after former President Hugo Chavez's death, he suggested that the United States might have poisoned the socialist leader to cause the cancer that killed him.
    The State Department has repeatedly rejected such accusations. Last year, it said Maduro's claim that U.S. officials had conspired against the Venezuelan government was "baseless and false."
    On Thursday, Maduro said the latest coup plot was tied to a coup attempt last year that involved several Venezuelan air force generals.
    The accusations come as opposition protesters mark the one-year anniversary of a wave of anti-government demonstrations that rocked Venezuela last year and led to the arrest of opposition leader Leopoldo Lopez.