US denies knowledge of alleged plot against Venezuela's Chavez

Thursday, December 29, 2005

BOGOTA, Colombia (AP) - The US Embassy in Colombia said yesterday it had no knowledge of an alleged meeting between an American drug enforcement official and Venezuelan and Colombian opponents of Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez, to discuss overthrowing the leftist leader.

"The US is not participating in any alleged coup plot against Venezuela nor have we any plans for such participation nor are we aware of any such plot," said a spokesperson for the US Embassy in Bogota, who spoke on customary condition of anonymity and provided no additional information.

The Venezuelan TV station Telesur, which is backed by Chavez' government, reported over the weekend that a US Drug Enforcement Administration official allegedly met with a group of Venezuelan ex-military officers and Colombian military personnel in Bogota.

The report said the US drug official was of Peruvian origin and has a last name of Thomas. It provided no other details and the report's credibility has not been determined.

Officials at the DEA in Washington were not immediately available for comment.

Chavez has repeatedly accused the United States of plotting to oust him.

Colombia President Alvaro Uribe earlier this month said a group of former Venezuelan military officers recently went to a government building in Bogota to meet with Colombian military officers to discuss a "conspiracy" against Chavez.

Uribe, a strong US ally, made no mention of any US officials possibly being involved.

The eight Venezuelan officers allegedly involved are accused by Chavez of leading a short-lived 2002 coup against him. They began arriving separately to neighbouring Colombia one year ago, fearing political persecution in their homeland.