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Venezuela orders 3 arrested for alleged plot

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CARACAS, Venezuela (AP) — Venezuela's attorney general ordered the arrests Wednesday of three government opponents, including a former presidential candidate and a former state oil company executive, who are wanted for questioning in an alleged plot to assassinate President Nicolas Maduro.

In an interview with state television, Luisa Ortega Diaz said arrest orders were issued for former candidate and United Nations ambassador Diego Arria; Pedro Burelli, the former external director of Petroleos de Venezuela; and Ricardo Koesling, an attorney who has been a strong critic of the Maduro administration.

Ortega Diaz charged that groups are seeking to destabilize Venezuela's socialist government and have formed "violent political plans" against Maduro and other high-ranking officials. Authorities investigating the alleged plot had summoned the three men to appear as witnesses.

Because the three men being sought are believed to be out of Venezuela, authorities plan to ask Interpol to help capture them, Ortega Diaz said.

Burelli, who has lived in the United States for several years, responded with his Twitter account, saying Ortega Diaz "is going down the wrong road." He told the newspaper El Universal earlier this week that he is working with his lawyer to prove that the accusations "are based on forged emails."

The attorney general's office opened its investigation in March after officials claimed a plot was being formed against the government. Caracas Mayor Jorge Rodriguez said last month that there was a "complex plan" to topple and assassinate Maduro and other leaders. He accused a former opposition congresswoman, Maria Corina Machado, of involvement and showed email messages that she allegedly shared with government opponents.

Investigators have ordered Machado to appear to answer questions Monday. She has denied any involvement in a plot to oust Maduro.

Since narrowly winning election last year to succeed his mentor, the late President Hugo Chavez, Maduro has claimed there have been five assassination attempts against him and more than a dozen acts of sabotage and conspiracy.

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