Venezuelan President Nicolás Maduro lashed out at neighboring Colombia, far-right Venezuelans in Miami and his U.S. counterpart Barack Obama in the wake of an alleged assassination attempt on him.
Authorities in Venezuela arrested two foreign nationals who planned to assassinate Maduro in a plot involving former Colombian head of state Alvaro Uribe. Colombian citizens Victor Gueche, 18, and Erik Huertas, 18, were nabbed last Thursday near Caracas carrying rifles "with laser sights," Venezuela's interior minister, Gen. Miguel Angel Rodriguez, told reporters.
Also found were munitions and a photo of Maduro posing with the speaker of the Venezuelan National Assembly, Diosdado Cabello.
Maduro blasted Obama, claiming that the purported plot was either hatched in the U.S. or involved anti-Chavista Venezuelans residing in places like south Florida. Like his ideological mentor and predecessor, Hugo Chávez, Maduro is a fierce critic of U.S. policy in Latin America.
“Is President Obama so weak that decisions are made for him in the United States to kill a Latin American head of state without his knowing it?” Maduro said, according to news agency Agence France Presse..
The claim that former Colombian President Uribe was involved in the plot harkens back to the strained relations that Venezuela and Colombia had when Chávez and Uribe led their respective nations.
"Alvaro Uribe Velez undoubtedly knows all about what is happening. Everyone knows he is a man with control over drug-trafficking groups, and we're not surprised at all that he is, directly or through operators," one of those involved, Rodriguez said.
Those in custody are part of a gang of 10 "hired killers with great experience," Rodriguez said, adding that Colombian intelligence officials gave him the names of the gunmen during his recent visit to Bogota.
Cabello spoke out last month about an alleged assassination plot directed by Uribe, former Honduran strongman Roberto Micheletti and Cuban exile militant Luis Posada Carriles, and disposing of more than $2.5 million in cash.
"The brains behind this organization is Posada Carriles," Rodriguez said Monday, referring to the U.S. Army veteran and erstwhile CIA operative who now lives in Miami.
Posada Carriles, once the head of Venezuela's secret police, is wanted by Caracas for the 1976 bombing of a Cuban airliner that left 73 people dead.
Alleged assassination attempts are frequently reported by the Venezuelan government, both under Chávez and now Maduro. So far this year, the Venezuelan government has reported several plots and attempts to kill Maduro involving Salvadoran and Colombian mercenaries.
Spanish news agency EFE contributed to this report.