CARACAS (Reuters) - Venezuelan opposition leader Maria Corina Machado on Thursday vowed to fight an expected indictment alleging she was involved in a plot to kill President Nicolas Maduro, calling the charges an attempt to silence critics of the socialist government.
The state prosecutor’s office on Wednesday said Machado would be charged in a hearing on Dec. 3 with involvement in the plan. Maduro’s adversaries have pilloried the alleged assassination plot as a charade based on fabricated evidence.
Machado, 47, a former legislator and high-profile adversary of the government, said she had no plans to leave the country and insisted she would be present for the hearing.
“I’ll be there for my children, I’ll be there for your children ... I’ll be there for Venezuela,” she said at a press conference, flanked by cheering supporters.
Asked if she expected to be detained, she responded, “It is obvious that there is no crime. How could they detain me?”
The Socialist Party has frequently made accusations about opponents without providing strong evidence, and late President Hugo Chavez often denounced assassination plots that did not yield arrests or prosecutions.
Government adversaries, however, openly conspired against Chavez, briefly toppling him in a failed 2002 coup. That year they also attempted to push him from office through an oil industry shut-down that lasted two months.
Critics call Machado a patrician elitist whose support for the de facto government that briefly ruled during the 2002 coup undercuts her democratic credentials. Her wealthy background led Chavez to mock her as a “little bourgeois girl.”
A picture of her smiling with U.S. President George W. Bush in a 2005 meeting at the White House has served as fodder for accusations by “Chavistas” that she is a pawn of Washington.
Officials have several times broadcast telephone conversations and shown emails on state TV which they say are evidence of Machado’s plotting against the government, evidence she called “pathetic.”
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 her supporters called arbitrary and illegal.
Fellow protest leader Leopoldo Lopez was jailed in February and is on trial accused of masterminding violence.
A mother of three and industrial engineering graduate, Machado’s street activism and strident criticism of Maduro have made her a heroine for the opposition’s radical wing.
Editing by Cynthia Osterman