Venezuela's Maduro pleads with Obama not to kill rival
Venezuela's caretaker president, Nicolas Maduro, asked Barack Obama to halt a plot to kill the opposition candidate in next month's election.
You see, it's complicated. Maduro - sort of a "Hugo-lite" - announced last week that his government had uncovered an insidious plot to kill Henrique Capriles, leader of the opposition which would be followed by a coup of army officers friendly to America.
Obviously, Maduro is worried that he doesn't have the election in the bag.
"I call on President Obama - Roger Noriega, Otto Reich, officials at the Pentagon and at the CIA are behind a plan to assassinate the right-wing presidential candidate to create chaos," Maduro said in a TV interview broadcast on Sunday.
Maduro, who is Chavez's preferred successor, said the purpose of the plot was to set off a coup and that his information came from "a very good source."
During his 14 years in power, the charismatic but divisive Chavez, who died March 5 after a two-year battle with cancer, often denounced U.S. plots against him and his "revolution." Critics dismissed those claims as a smokescreen to keep voters focused on a sense of "imperialist" threat.
In kicking off the opposition's campaign in the provinces on Saturday, Capriles said Maduro would be to blame if anything happened to him.
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Capriles, a 40-year-old centrist state governor who cites Brazil as his economic model for Venezuela, accuses Maduro of using his boss's death as a mawkish campaign tool ahead of the April 14 vote.
Maduro, 50, a former bus driver who is trumpeting his working-class roots like Chavez, has a lead over Capriles of more than 10 percentage points, according to two recent opinion polls. Both were conducted before Chavez's death.
Maduro has sought to emulate the late president's common touch and emotional bond with voters but has struggled - beyond copying Chavez's bombastic rhetoric against foes at home and abroad.
In Sunday's interview, recorded at the military museum where Chavez's body was carried in a somber funeral procession on Friday after 10 days of mourning, Maduro said he had cried more when Chavez died than when his own parents passed away.
Maduro may use Cubans for this kind of wet work since they have much more experience at murdering leaders. But having planted the seed, it will be interesting to see if it bears fruit. There are plenty of paramilitaries in Venezuela - armed Chavistas who will never allow Capriles to take office. If it looks like he's going to win or come close, anything could happen.