updated 10/1/2006 12:46:57 AM ET 2006-10-01T04:46:57

President Hugo Chavez, who has repeatedly spoken of various plots on his life, said Saturday a sniper with a long-range gun and a motorcycle to escape on had planned to shoot him as he exited a helicopter on a recent trip to western Venezuela.

The incident allegedly occurred when Chavez visited the western oil-producing region of Zulia in June to inaugurate a refurbished fertilizer plant. Chavez appeared to link the plot to his main rival in upcoming presidential elections, Gov. Manuel Rosales of Zulia state, claiming that he is in constant danger from opponents seeking to get rid of him.

“The plan didn’t work out for them — God is always present over there. But those responsible left for Colombia, and by the way, they were from the Zulia police,” he said.

He did not elaborate further on the alleged plot.

Chavez has made other claims of assassination plots in the past, including a case involving 27 Colombians and three former Venezuelan military officers who were convicted last October by a military court for allegedly plotting to kill him.

Claims Bush out to get him
His government also demanded that Bogota investigate allegations that surfaced in an influential Colombian magazine in April saying the country’s secret police plotted to assassinate Chavez and other top Venezuelan officials. Colombian President Alvaro Uribe has denied the allegations.

Chavez has also accused the U.S. government of secretly backing his opponents in the Dec. 3 elections and recently claimed that President Bush may be seeking to kill him after he called the U.S. leader “the devil” at the United Nations General Assembly.

“For sure, one walks around risking one’s life ... We’re being threatened with death by the (U.S.) empire,” he said.

U.S.-Venezuela ties sharply deteriorated after the Bush administration swiftly recognized leaders who ousted Chavez in a 2002 coup before the Venezuelan returned to power amid a popular uprising.

Chavez has claimed before that the U.S. government is out to kill him and invade his country. U.S. officials deny that but criticize Chavez as a destabilizing force in Latin America.

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