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Venezuela investigates opposition leaders involved in Maduro assassination plot

CARACAS, May 29 (Xinhua) -- Venezuela's Attorney General Luisa Ortega Diaz said Thursday her office is investigating political opposition leaders accused by the government of plotting to assassinate President Nicolas Maduro.

The investigation began in early March and could lead to charges against those involved, including former opposition leader Maria Corina Machado, who is believed to be one of the main instigators of the scheme, Ortega told reporters.

"Anyone linked to this case or believed to have participated in the coup and assassination plot will be charged and put in jail or banned from leaving the country," said Ortega.

In a message on his Twitter account, Maduro thanked regional and local authorities for thwarting the plot against him.

"I thank the 20 governors and 255 mayors of the country that today repudiated the attempted assassination by the fascist rightwing," said Maduro.

Earlier in the day, the Council of Boliviarian Governors and Mayors said they rejected "categorically the assassination and any other plan that attempts to break democratic order."

The government announced on Wednesday that it had uncovered a plot by opposition leaders, international financiers and officials backed by the U.S. State Department to assassinate Maduro and seize power.

It identified Machado as being behind the plans, citing several incriminating email exchanges between the former deputy and others, including the U.S. ambassador to Colombia.

The attorney general said that after the investigation was opened in March, a judge assigned to the case authorized the Venezuelan Intelligence Service to monitor Machado's communications, including phone conversations and emails.

"These actions were previously authorized by a judge and although the Venezuelan penal code considers them private they're a matter of state security," Ortega said.

Machado, meanwhile, went to the Attorney General's Office to denounce the officials that have accused her of being behind the plot, and to deny she wrote the emails, saying there was a government conspiracy to put her in jail.

"Mr. Maduro, I don't participate in such violent actions. Stop dreaming about coups and assassination plots," she said, calling on Maduro to resign.

Venezuela has been rocked by violent protests since February instigated by hardline opposition leaders who demand a change of government due to high inflation, food shortages and soaring crime.

The protests have left 42 dead and 835 wounded.

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