CARACAS, Venezuela – President Hugo Chavez accused the United States on Wednesday of harboring a fugitive opposition leader, saying the CIA let him enter U.S. territory to help bolster a plan for removing Venezuela's leader.
"The United States is giving protection to a criminal," Chavez said during a televised address, talking about television station owner Guillermo Zuloaga. "This man is saying whatever the CIA wants him to say."
Chavez, who describes himself as a socialist and is a longtime critic of U.S. influence in Latin America, claims Zuloaga is involved in a plot to assassinate him.
The president claimed last week, without offering any details, that he has intelligence that some of his opponents have offered $100 million for his assassination. Zuloaga "is one of them," he charged.
Zuloaga, the president and majority owner of the opposition-aligned Globovision TV channel, has denied offering money for Chavez's assassination.
Chavez's comments came after Zuloaga criticized the president's order for the government to pursue legal measures against Globovision.
"You know that any legal action that is tried against Globovision will be an attack for the company and its workers," he said in remarks broadcast by the station Monday.
Zuloaga, who has recently been in the United States, fled Venezuela in June after a court ordered him jailed on charges of usury and conspiracy. He says he does not intend to return to face the charges because he wouldn't receive a fair trial because Chavez holds sway over Venezuela's justice system.
Chavez has waged a long-running battle with Globovision and has threatened the news channel before.
Globovision has been the only opposition channel on the air in Venezuela since another one, RCTV, was forced off cable and satellite TV last January. RCTV had been booted off the open airwaves in 2007.