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US Ambassador to Venezuela Denies CIA Is Plotting to Overthrow President Hugo Chavez
Published on Thursday, October 23, 2003 by the Associated Press
US Ambassador to Venezuela Denies CIA Is Plotting to Overthrow President Hugo Chavez
by Christopher Toothaker

Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez speaks to the nation during a TV broadcast in Caracas, late October 22, 2003. Facing a possible referendum on his rule, Chavez is showering wage hikes, bonuses and social reforms on state employees, the military and the poor to keep his embattled government in power, analysts said on October 23, 2003. The referendum could be held in late March 2004 if the opposition collects enough signatures next month. But the leftist President and his foes are already competing to win the hearts and minds of oil-rich Venezuela's 12 million voters. REUTERS/Miraflores Palace-Handout
CARACAS, Venezuela - Washington's ambassador to Venezuela denied Thursday the CIA was working with Venezuelan dissidents to overthrow President Hugo Chavez as the his allies have alleged.

U.S. Ambassador Charles Shapiro met with the ruling party lawmakers who made the allegations and disputed charges that the Central Intelligence Agency planned to overthrow the government.

"I am sure the charge is not true," he said.

On Wednesday, pro-Chavez lawmaker Nicolas Maduro showed a videotape he claimed was evidence the CIA financing and training dissident military officers and police in espionage and "terrorist" tactics to topple Chavez.

The U.S. Embassy said in a statement that the video showed a private security company, not CIA agents. It also said the U.S. government did not participate in the event.

Played at a news conference at Congress, the video showed three unidentified men speaking in Spanish about making contacts with an unspecified embassy. They discussed "blending in" and changing cars to avoid detection.

The tape, which Maduro said was filmed in June, appeared to have been edited.

Shapiro said he visited Congress "to try to understand what (Maduro) said, because it isn't true at all."

During a nationally televised speech late Wednesday, Chavez said his government has learned of plans by radical opposition groups to disrupt a Nov. 28 to Dec. 1 signature drive for a recall referendum on his rule. He did not mention the CIA.

© 2003 The Associated Press


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