Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro has directly blamed Juan Guaido, the opposition leader and head of Parliament, for two failed maritime attacks as the latter kept mum while one of his top advisers acknowledged the link.
"He is capable of signing a contract to kill his political contender who does that in the world? Sign a contract with a mercenary to kill his political contender?" Maduro said in an interview with state television Telesur on Thursday.
"He is a criminal. He did it, he prepared my murder," added the President.
The first attack took place on Sunday in the state of La Guaira, while on Monday authorities foiled the second raid on the coast of the state of Aragua, reports Efe news.
In these two raids, eight attackers died and 23 people were arrested, including two former US service members, according to the latest information on Thursday.
The US, Colombia and Guaido himself denied their participation in the attacks almost immediately after being accused by Venezuelan authorities.
But one of Guaido's most prominent advisers, Juan Jose Rendon told CNN that he had signed an "exploratory" agreement with US contractor Silvercorp as part of an "exploration" to carry out actions, including seeking the possibility of capturing several government officials and "deliver(ing) them to justice", that would lead to Maduro's overthrow.
Rendon also said that Guaido, who is recognized by almost 60 countries as interim president, did not sign the agreement.
But Rendon's remarks gave Maduro more fuel against the opponent, whom the Attorney General's Office is already investigating for various reasons.
"The document that is officially circulating has Juan Guaido's signature," Maduro said during Thursday's interview. "We are facing the political and moral degradation of the opposition."
Amidst the new accusations, Guaido kept silent on Thursday and suspended a teleconference session of Parliament, which he controls with the support of 100 of the 167 deputies.
During the day, Guaido's team told journalists that he would issue a statement setting a position on the new elements of the case, which would include the statement of one of the two Americans arrested during the raid on Monday.
( With inputs from IANS )