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.
A State Department spokeswoman declined to comment Thursday night on the Venezuelan President’s accusations.
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 Venezuela’s presidential palace this week, or a public demonstration that the Venezuelan President was attending.
Other buildings were also 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.
He also expelled a group of U.S. diplomats from the country last year and accused the Pentagon and CIA of conspiring against him.
The State Department has repeatedly refuted the Venezuelan President’s accusations. Last year, it said Maduro’s claim that U.S. officials had conspired against the Venezuelan government was “baseless and false.”
On the day of his election in 2013, Maduro vowed to use an “iron fist” against any coup attempts against his government.
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.