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Ambassador to Venezuela Denies CIA Plot

October 23, 2003

CARACAS, Venezuela (AP) _ Washington’s ambassador to Venezuela denied Thursday the CIA was working with Venezuelan dissidents to overthrow President Hugo Chavez as the his allies have alleged.

U.S. Ambassador Charles Shapiro met with the ruling party lawmakers who made the allegations and disputed charges that the Central Intelligence Agency planned to overthrow the government.

``I am sure the charge is not true,″ he said.

On Wednesday, pro-Chavez lawmaker Nicolas Maduro showed a videotape he claimed was evidence the CIA financing and training dissident military officers and police in espionage and ``terrorist″ tactics to topple Chavez.

The U.S. Embassy said in a statement that the video showed a private security company, not CIA agents. It also said the U.S. government did not participate in the event.

Played at a news conference at Congress, the video showed three unidentified men speaking in Spanish about making contacts with an unspecified embassy. They discussed ``blending in″ and changing cars to avoid detection.

The tape, which Maduro said was filmed in June, appeared to have been edited.

Shapiro said he visited Congress ``to try to understand what (Maduro) said, because it isn’t true at all.″

During a nationally televised speech late Wednesday, Chavez said his government has learned of plans by radical opposition groups to disrupt a Nov. 28 to Dec. 1 signature drive for a recall referendum on his rule. He did not mention the CIA.

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