Plot 'targeted Venezuela leaders'
A plot to assassinate leading members of Hugo Chavez's government in Venezuela has been uncovered, a minister has claimed.
Vice-president Nicolas Maduro said the government has evidence of a plot to assassinate him and National Assembly president Diosdado Cabello.
"For some weeks we've been following groups that have infiltrated in the country and have the goal of trying to kill comrade Diosdado Cabello and me," said Mr Maduro, speaking to a crowd of government supporters.
"For that reason, they've said that we're fighting because their macabre and criminal move is to make attempts against our lives - something they won't achieve - and later on try to blame one or the other," he added.
Mr Maduro referred to the alleged plot after announcing he would travel to Cuba along with Oil Minister Rafael Ramirez to see the ailing president Hugo Chavez, who underwent cancer surgery more than six weeks ago. The vice president did not provide any evidence or say what sort of attacks the authorities believed to have been planned.
Mr Maduro also did not mention any arrests, but said: "Don't be surprised by the actions that will be taken in the coming days."
A large contingent of police and troops with rifles stood guard while Mr Maduro spoke at an outdoor rally in Caracas. The vice president and Mr Cabello have often appeared together while Mr Chavez has remained out of sight in Cuba following the operation. The two men had repeatedly denied speculation about potential divisions between them.
Mr Maduro said Mr Chavez has gone through a difficult recovery process after the December 11 operation, and that now "he's on the path to a new phase".
Late on Wednesday, Cuban state television showed Mr Maduro arriving in Havana and being greeted by Cuban foreign minister Bruno Rodriguez. He made no comments. Mr Chavez, who was re-elected to another six-year term in October, has not appeared or spoken publicly since he left for Havana on December 10.
Government officials have said the 58-year-old president is improving after suffering complications including a severe respiratory infection, but they have not provided specific details about his health. Even with Mr Chavez absent, his supporters took to Caracas' streets by the thousands to commemorate the anniversary of the country's democracy.