Venezuela to charge opposition leader over alleged plot to kill Maduro

Venezuela's opposition leader Maria Corina Machado (C) gestures next to Lilian Tintori (L), wife of jailed opposition leader Leopoldo Lopez, as Machado arrives under a subpoena at a court in Caracas June 16, 2014. REUTERS/Carlos Garcia Rawlins (Reuters)

CARACAS (Reuters) - Venezuelan opposition leader Maria Corina Machado will be charged with involvement in an alleged plot to kill President Nicolas Maduro, authorities said on Wednesday, a move Machado slammed as an effort to silence her. Ruling Socialist Party leaders in May accused a group of opposition activists including Machado of planning Maduro's assassination to pave the way for a coup. Opposition critics dismissed the accusation as a charade based on forged documents. "Those who think they can silence us with threats and abuse are mistaken!" Machado wrote on her Twitter account following the announcement. Machado, a former legislator and high-profile adversary of the government, helped spearhead three months of protests earlier this year. She will be formally charged on Dec. 3, the prosecutor's office said in a statement. In May, prosecutors called her in to testify as a witness in the case. At the time, she dismissed the Socialist Party's accusations as "infamy." The Socialist Party has frequently made accusations about opponents without providing strong evidence. Adversaries dismiss such campaigns as political stunts. Government supporters point out that the opposition in 2002 staged a brief coup against late President Hugo Chavez and launched several national strikes as part of failed efforts to force him from office. Machado rose to prominence in 2003 by helping the opposition gather signatures for an ultimately failed 2004 recall referendum against late socialist leader Hugo Chavez, and went on to become known as one of his most combative critics. Elected to Congress in 2010, she was stripped of her seat in March at the height of the three months of opposition protests in a move opposition sympathizers called arbitrary and illegal. Her critics pillory her as a wealthy and out-of-touch elitist, noting she signed a decree that dissolved state institutions during the de facto government that ruled for less than two days during the botched 2002 coup against Chavez. (Reporting by Brian Ellsworth; Editing by David Gregorio)