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Venezuelan opposition leader charged in presidential assassination plot to appear before court

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CARACAS, Venezuela — Opposition leader Maria Corina Machado said Thursday she will continue working toward a peaceful change of Venezuela's government even as she complies with an order to face charges of plotting to kill the president.

Venezuela's chief prosecutor on Wednesday ordered the former congresswoman to appear in court next week on charges of participating in what the government described back in May as a U.S.-backed plot to assassinate socialist President Nicolas Maduro. She denies the allegations.

Machado told journalists the charges are further evidence that the Maduro administration has become a dictatorship and said the charges may have been retribution for demanding the resignation of national election council leaders earlier Wednesday.

"Maduro is trying to bring chaos to Venezuela, and we are in danger," she said.

Together with fellow opposition leader Leopoldo Lopez, Machado called tens of thousands of demonstrators into the streets to protest the government earlier this year. The strategy brought them into conflict with more moderate opposition leaders who were advocating gradual electoral change.

Lopez was arrested nine months ago for his role in the sometimes violent protests. He turned himself in during an emotional public event.

PHOTO: Opposition leader Maria Corina Machado, left, speaks as she holds the hand of Lilian Tintori, wife of imprisoned opposition leader Leopoldo Lopez, during a press conference in Caracas, Venezuela, Thursday, Nov. 27, 2014. Machado says she will continue working toward peaceful regime change in Venezuela even as she complies with an order to face charges of plotting to kill the President Nicolas Maduro. Venezuela’s chief prosecutor Wednesday ordered the former congresswoman to appear in court Dec. 3 on charges of participating in a U.S.-backed plot to assassinate Maduro. (AP Photo/Ariana Cubillos)
Opposition leader Maria Corina Machado, left, speaks as she holds the hand of Lilian Tintori, wife of imprisoned opposition leader Leopoldo Lopez, during a press conference in Caracas, Venezuela, Thursday, Nov. 27, 2014. Machado says she will continue working toward peaceful regime change in Venezuela even as she complies with an order to face charges of plotting to kill the President Nicolas Maduro. Venezuela’s chief prosecutor Wednesday ordered the former congresswoman to appear in court Dec. 3 on charges of participating in a U.S.-backed plot to assassinate Maduro. (AP Photo/Ariana Cubillos)

It's unclear whether Machado will take a similar path should authorities move to detain her. She is the only opposition leader implicated in the purported plot still living in Venezuela. The government has broadcast emails on national television that officials say prove Machado was plotting with hostile governments to topple Maduro.

Opposition leaders did launch a short-lived coup against Maduro's mentor, the late President Hugo Chavez, in 2002. Two years later, Machado accepted money from the U.S. government to finance a recall effort against Chavez.

The government barred Machado from leaving the country in June, shortly after the ruling party stripped her of her seat in Congress. She says airlines will not sell her even tickets for domestic flights.

Asked about her plans directly, she said she should not be arrested because she is innocent.

"It's clear there is no crime, so how are they going to detain me," she said.


Hannah Dreier on Twitter: https://twitter.com/hannahdreier

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