Maria Corina Machado, who had met US President George W. Bush on May, is accused of conspiracy
Four members of the Sumate group, the US-funded organization that fuelled a referendum to oust Venezuela President Chavez last year, will be tried in Venezuela accused of conspiring to change country’s republican system. Among them is a well known opposition figure, Maria Corina Machado, who had visited US President George W. Bush at the White House on 31 May.
Chavez has called Machado a traitor after her Sumate group received funding from the US Congress. The president won the August recall referendum organised by Sumate, which said the vote was plagued by irregularities and held under conditions that favoured the president.
The judge ruled that Machado, Alejandro Plaz, Luis Enrique Palacios and Ricardo Estevez should be tried in court but did not set a date. She said they could remain at liberty until the trial took place.
The accused denied accusations and said Chavez's government has trumped up the charges against them in an attempt to intimidate critics who say his rule is becoming increasingly authoritarian. US officials praise Machado as a pro-democracy campaigner. She is the only Venezuelan political figure whom Bush has formally received.
The trial comes shortly after Bush accused Venezuela’s officials of being funding leftist parties in Bolivia to instigate unrest in the embattled Andean nation. Allegations could not be independently confirmed, while governments across the region have repeatedly rejected such meddling.
But the US funding of Venezuela’s opposition that led deadly protests against the government and headed two-month general lock-outs can be easily confirmed. Sumate itself has admitted it received a $31,000 grant from the National Endowment for Democracy, a US group that is allocated funds by the US Congress to “promote democracy worldwide.”
On the photo: Venezuela’s Chavez believes the US keeps plotting to oust him from power.