CARACAS, Venezuela (AP) — Salvadoran mercenaries are plotting with Venezuela's opposition candidate to assassinate interim President Nicolas Maduro. But wait, the plot thickens. Central American agents, along with former U.S. diplomats, are also plotting to kill the opposition candidate, Henrique Capriles.
Those are just two of the conspiracy theories that Maduro has put forth ahead of Sunday's election to replace Hugo Chavez. Maduro, who is running as Chavez's hand-picked successor, also says the government has launched an investigation to determine if someone — U.S. agents, he has hinted — inoculated Chavez with the cancer that killed him March 5.
Opposition leaders called the allegation laughable, but government officials insist it's no joke. Such conspiracy theories don't seem all that wild to some Latin Americans who resent decades of U.S. meddling in their affairs. In Venezuela, relations with the U.S. deteriorated after Washington briefly endorsed a coup that toppled Chavez for two days in 2002.
Maduro claims his political opponents have hired mercenaries from El Salvador to assassinate him. He has offered no proof, but during a rally Sunday he accused a former aide to Capriles of being the plot's mastermind.
Capriles called the claim "contradictory and ridiculous." He recalled that less than two weeks ago, Maduro claimed that former U.S. diplomats Otto Reich and Roger Noriega were plotting to kill Capriles with the aide of Central American mercenaries. The U.S. State Department has dismissed the allegations too.