Venezuelan opposition activist Maria Corina Machado said Friday she could be arrested at any time after President Nicolas Maduro accused her of participating in an alleged plot to assassinate him.
Military court documents obtained by El Nuevo Herald show that Machado was named as a suspect in the plot, although the documents offer no evidence, and other suspects named in the documents have alleged they were tortured.
Machado — who denied any participation in any conspiracy against Maduro — noted that nearly 300 members of the armed forces were detained or disappeared in recent weeks because of suspicions of plots against the government, but she added that's the risk that all Venezuelans face today.
“Any one of us can be arrested. This is a dictatorship. In Venezuela, there is no rule of law and there is no justice,” said Machado.
Machado added that she will not leave Venezuela despite the government efforts to link her to the alleged assassination plot.
“I ask Venezuelans to stay here,” she said in a telephone interview after a press conference Friday. “This is our country and we're not going to give it away. The ones who have to leave are Maduro and his mafias. The heart of my message is stay and fight, and that's what I am doing.”
The Maduro government announced some weeks back that it had broken up a conspiracy to assassinate Maduro, the leader of the so-called Bolivarian Revolution, and topple his government.
News media in Venezuela have previously reported the arrests of nearly 20 armed forces officers, and that Machado was among the civilians implicated in the case.
The reports have sparked concerns in the United States.
“Maria Corina is with the people of Venezuela in its fight for freedom. Maduro and his minions should think twice before threatening her life,” Florida Republican Sen. Marco Rubio wrote on Twitter.
“The U.S. and international community should take note and will enforce tough sanctions if her life is at risk,” added Rubio, one of most influential Washington voices on Venezuelan affairs.
Documents from the court case against the military officers, obtained by el Nuevo Herald, say Machado is accused of participating in and financing the alleged “Operation Armageddon.”
“Among the political figures, there was information that links [to the plot] citizen Maria Corina Machado, leader of the Vente Venezuela political movement, financier and international liaison,” noted one document, which gave no further information.
The Colombian government is also involved in the conspiracy, according to the documents and official comments made by the Maduro government.
The accusations before a military tribunal in Caracas identify more than 30 armed forces members in the alleged conspiracy to assassinate Maduro and sabotage the presidential election that was held in May — and was regarded as fraudulent by much of the international community.
The documents say the allegations are based on “intelligence work,” but details are not included in the files.
Most of people named as suspects were arrested illegally, before the court signed their arrest orders.
At least two of the suspects detained told military court judge Claudia Carolina Perez de Mogollon, who is in charge of the case, that they were tortured and forced to sign fabricated confessions.
Machado told el Nuevo Herald that relatives of the armed forces members who were detained have told her the detainees are being tortured.
She said her goal is to see Maduro removed from office.
“I have told Nicolas Maduro that I want him out of Miraflores [presidential palace], but that I want him alive, so he can face the justice that he has denied to all Venezuelans,” she said. “The day when change comes, when he leaves power, I am going to do everything in my power to protect his life and make sure he faces justice.”
The armed forces members arrested joined the already high number of soldiers jailed by Maduro.
According to the court documents, the assassination plotters met several times to prepare the operation, gathered communication equipment and tried to recruit other members of the armed forces.
But the documents offer no evidence of what happened during the alleged meetings or whether the meetings in fact were held.
The documents make few direct mentions of Machado, saying only that she financed the plot.
Follow Antonio María Delgado on Twitter:@DelgadoAntonioM