Venezuela Opposition: Audio Suggests Cuba Meddling
By KARL RITTER and FABIOLA SANCHEZ Associated Press
CARACAS, Venezuela May 20, 2013 (AP)
Venezuela's opposition has released an audio recording that it said
contains a prominent member of the ruling party discussing political
strategy with a Cuban intelligence officer.
Opposition lawmaker Ismael Garcia said Monday that the recording
captures a phone conversation between state TV personality Mario Silva,
a staunch government ally, and a Cuban identified as Lt. Col. Aramis
Venezuela's opposition has long accused Cuban leaders of wielding
influence behind the scenes in guiding government decisions. For its
part, the Venezuelan government accuses opposition leader Henrique
Capriles of being a puppet of the U.S.
At a news conference, Garcia didn't say when the conversation was
recorded or how he obtained it.
In it, a man identified as Silva is heard discussing a split in the
ruling socialist party between parliament leader Diosdado Cabello and
President Nicolas Maduro, the late President Hugo Chavez's successor.
The man says he worries that Cabello, a former army officer, is
conspiring against the president, who narrowly defeated Capriles in an
April 14 election that the opposition refuses to accept, claiming fraud.
For example, the voice says, Maduro's opponents in the party want to
remove Defense Minister Diego Molero.
"Why do they want to remove him, Palacios? To be able to take the armed
forces and put pressure on Maduro or to behave as they please or to pull
a coup d'etat," the man says.
Silva dismissed the recording on Twitter as a "montage" and suggested
U.S. and Israeli intelligence agencies were behind it. In a statement
later Monday, he insisted that the recording was "absolutely false," and
pledged his support to both Maduro and Cabello.
Cabello also dismissed the recording, calling on the opposition to
present real evidence, "not a show."
Cuban authorities did not immediately respond to a request for reaction
or information about Palacios.
In a speech broadcast Monday on state TV, Maduro called for an end to
"intrigues" against his administration and the armed forces but didn't
specifically mention the recording.
During his 14-year reign, Chavez forged close ties with Cuba, where he
was treated for the cancer that killed him March 5. Venezuela has
shipped billions of dollars' worth of oil to Cuba on preferential terms.
Capriles had urged his supporters to pay attention to the news
conference in which the recording was released.
"Every corrupt and illegitimate government always implodes!" he tweeted
Associated Press writer Peter Orsi in Havana contributed to this report.