A Colombian hitman recently disclosed to the Venezuelan government that over 2,500 paramilitary fighters are in the country, each chasing a $25 million bounty on the life of Venezuela President Hugo Chavez, according to Arab news network Al Jazeera.
The man, who is reportedly in the custody of Venezuelan officials, said the bounty was offered by Manuel Rosales, Chavez's most prominent political foe, during a secret meeting 10 years ago.
Rosales allegedly said "that he would give $25 million to kill [Chavez], but that he himself would not give the money directly," the man said, as translated by Al Jazeera.
Rosales fled into Peru in April after a warrant was issued for his arrest. He protested in the media, calling the corruption charges a political lynching.
"Right now, there are two thousand, five hundred paramilitaries from Colombia inside Venezuela with one objective: with the objective of taking down Chavez, with the objective of destabilizing him" a translator says on the video.
The network was unable to obtain comment from Rosales, and the Venezuela attorney general's office would not confirm nor deny the veracity of the man's claims.
Former U.S. President Jimmy Carter, speaking to a South American newspaper recently, claimed the United States may have been involved in an attempted overthrow of Chavez's regime.
"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," he told El Tiempo last week.
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."
In August, Colombian officials announced a deal with the United States that will allow U.S. troops to be stationed at Colombian military bases, which will serve as a hub for remote surveillance in the region. Their mission will allegedly use advanced Predator drone technology to aid in fighting the drug trade and to combat terrorism, according to published reports in August.
In Venezuela, officials bristled at the news. Chavez warned: "The winds of war [are] beginning to blow."
Chavez has already accused Colombian troops of making an incursion over the border and regional tensions are running high.
This video is from Al Jazeera English, broadcast Sept. 26, 2009.