Maduro spokesman Jorge Rodriguez said on state television a network of mostly retired police officers and soldiers planned to bomb a key government building, seize a Caracas airbase and loot the country’s central bank.
Rodriguez said the alleged network planned the attack for June 23 and wanted to kill Maduro, his wife, and several high-ranking government officials.
He also claimed the plot also involved opposition leader Juan Guaido, who is backed by the United States’ government and several dozen countries who recognize him as Venezuela’s legitimate leader.
Guaido, who said members of his own political team were confronted by armed men from Maduro’s security forces early Wednesday, dismissed the latest claim as yet another attempt by the government to distract from Venezuela’s real problems.
“Let it be clear to the regime that they will not intimidate us,” Guaido said at a news conference, urging members of the police and military to stop taking orders from Maduro’s regime.
Maduro, in a nationally televised address, said later the plotters were cowards backed by the United States.
“That’s not called politics,” Maduro said. “That’s called fascism.”
Meanwhile, Rodriguez appeared to suggest the alleged coup has been brought down by informers within the group.
“We were in all the meetings to plan the coup,” he said. “We were in all the conferences.”
The government has claimed various plots have been averted over the years, generally offering little-to-no evidence to back its charges. The opposition contends Maduro uses such claims to justify his crackdown on dissent.
Maduro came under attack in August 2018 by two drones loaded with explosives, which detonated near the president while he spoke at an outdoor military celebration. He was not harmed in the attack, which officials called an assassination attempt.
Rodríguez said the purported network wanted to steal a helicopter to liberate Raul Baduel, a former defense minister now in jail, and install him as president.
He also charged Colombian President Ivan Duque Marquez and Chilean President Sebastian Pinera backed the alleged thwarted coup plot, but he didn’t provide evidence.
Venezuela was thrust into a political tug-of-war earlier this year when Guaido, the leader of the opposition-led National Assembly, invoked the country’s constitution and declared himself interim president.
Lewis Hamilton made a good start to the weekend on which he can clinch a sixth world title with fastest time in Mexican Grand Prix first practice.
Ferrari’s Sebastian Vettel was sixth fastest, 0.891secs off the pace, after a number of off-track moments caused by locking his brakes into Turn One at the end of the long straight, which sees the fastest straight-line speeds of the year.
The session started slowly, because the track was damp after overnight rain, and 25 minutes went by before anyone set a lap time.
And it was interrupted by a red-flag for a few minutes mid-session when Lance Stroll crashed his Racing Point at the final corner.
When cars were running, there were several incidents when front-runners were tripped up by traffic in the tight and twisty final sector of the lap, which winds through a baseball stadium.
And the drivers were battling with low grip, partly caused by the dirty track surface, and partly by the thin air in Mexico City, where the Autodromo Hermanos Rodriguez is located more than 2,000m above sea level.
That means that teams struggle with a lack of aerodynamic downforce, because the cars cannot generate as much in the thin air, as well as engine and brake cooling.
The headline lap times are hard to read – not only was Leclerc running on harder tyres, which suggests his lap was the de facto fastest of the session, but Albon and Bottas, who were 0.6secs off the pace, set their best lap times before the red flag and the others after it, when the track would be in better condition.
Best of the rest behind the big three was McLaren’s Carlos Sainz, with Toro Rosso’s Pierre Gasly and Daniil Kvyat next, ahead of the Alfa Romeo of Antonio Giovanizzi.