President Hugo Chavez has said his government is redoubling efforts to detect assassination plots, calling US diplomat John Negroponte a "professional killer" and saying he believes enemies - including the CIA - are out to kill him.
Chavez said Venezuelan officials have intelligence that associates of jailed Cuban anti-communist militant Luis Posada Carriles also are involved in plotting to assassinate him.
He said the death plot idea has "gained weight" due to various factors, including the recent appointment of Negroponte, the former director of national intelligence, as deputy to US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice.
"Who did they swear in ... There at the White House as deputy secretary of state? A professional killer: John Negroponte," Chavez said on Sunday.
He was asked about the subject during a televised interview with his longtime confidant Jose Vicente Rangel, who has returned to his old job of hosting a talk show on the channel Televen since he was replaced as Chavez's vice president in January.
"They have assigned special units of the CIA, true assassins, who go around not only here in Venezuela, in Central America, in South America," Chavez said, without elaborating.
He added that Posada Carriles people are very active in Central America and searching for contacts in Venezuela...
They are going around searching for explosives in large quantities, thinking about a sort of car bombing or searching for ground-to-air missiles, thinking about the presidential plane.