The United States knew about an abortive coup against Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez in 2002, and may even have taken part, former US president Jimmy Carter has told a Colombian newspaper.
"I think there is no doubt that in 2002, the United States had at the very least full knowledge about the coup, and could even have been directly involved," Carter said in an interview with El Tiempo published Sunday.
The former US leader said it is understandable that Chavez continues to blame the United States for the failed overthrow attempt.
The Venezuelan president, considered a bulwark of leftism in Latin America, was overthrown by a civilian-military junta for about 48 hours in April 2002, before returning to power.
Then-president George W. Bush denied any US involvement in the abortive coup and called on Chavez, a fierce US critic, to "learn a lesson" from the attempted overthrow.
Carter told El Tiempo that he believed Chavez was elected in a "fair" vote in 1999, had carried out necessary reforms for Venezuela and ensured that "those who are traditionally excluded are able to get a larger share of the national wealth."
But he also said he was worried by the Venezuelan leader's drift towards "authoritarianism."
He added that he felt Chavez's popularity at home and his influence abroad had been "diminished."
Carter said US President Barack Obama had told him he would eventually like to have normal relations with Venezuela.
"But he (Chavez) has made this almost impossible," Carter said, adding that "international relations would be better if he would stop his attacks and insults against the United States."
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