Venezuelan President Nicolás Maduro cancelled his debut at the United Nations General Assembly Wednesday, saying his enemies were plotting to incite violence in New York or even kill him.
Just hours before he was scheduled to address the U.N., Maduro announced via Twitter that he had arrived back in Venezuela -- not New York -- after a six-day trip to China.
During a national broadcast late Wednesday, Maduro said he was on a layover in Canada when he received information about two plots, one to incite violence and the other to kill him.
Thats when I decided to head straight to Caracas, he said, to preserve my physical integrity, my life and the honor of Venezuela.
As he has done in the past, Maduro blamed former U.S. diplomats Roger Noriega and Otto Reich for being behind the scheme. Since winning a narrow and contested election in April, Maduro has often accused the two men -- along with former Colombian President Alvaro Uribe -- of wanting to depose or kill him. Hes never provided evidence and he stopped short of doing so on Wednesday, saying that revealing details would put his informants at risk.
In a statement, Noriega called the accusations ridiculous and unfounded.
My guess is he would be safer in [New York] than he is in Caracas because of the infighting within his criminal regime, said Noriega, former U.S. representative to the Organization of American States. It is possible that his Cuban handlers believe that he is needed in Venezuela to fortify his unstable position as the country braces for an economic collapse and political turmoil that will ensue when corrupt [officials] scramble to steal what little they have left behind.
Maduro speculated that U.S. President Barack Obama knew about the plots but was too weak to take any actions.
Even so, Foreign Minister Elías Jaua will take his place at the event.
Maduros U.N. trip seemed troubled from the start. Before flying to China on Friday, he accused the United States of initially denying him the right to travel through U.S. airspace over Puerto Rico. He also said Washington was trying to hamstring his New York visit by denying visas to members of his U.N. delegation. The U.S. State Department denied both those allegations.
On Monday, Foreign Minister Elías Jaua said Maduro needed full guarantees from U.S. authorities to attend the U.N. The delegation was traveling in a Cuban jetliner, generating speculation that it might have been at risk of seizure by U.S. citizens who have won legal demands against the Havana government and are trying to collect.
Maduro said he used the Cubana de Aviación plane after inspectors found a serious problem in one of the wings of the presidential aircraft. Maduro said he would be pursuing legal action because the airplane had recently undergone a five-month overhaul by the manufacturer.
On Wednesday, the State Department said it went out of its way to accommodate Maduro's repeatedly late requests for permission to fly to New York for the U.N. General Assembly before he cancelled his arrival.
Maduros former boss, the late President Hugo Chávez, seemed to relish his U.N. appearances, raising hackles by calling former U.S. President George Bush a devil, flogging books by his favorite authors and breaking out in song.