Officials from President Donald Trump's administration met secretly with Venezuelan military officers to discuss plans to oust President Nicolas Maduro but eventually decided not to help, The New York Times reported Saturday.
Trump has been harshly critical of Maduro's leftist regime, as Venezuela has spiraled downward into a grave economic and humanitarian crisis that has sparked violent protests and prompted a wave of emigration into nearby countries.
The Times, citing unnamed American officials and a former Venezuelan military commander who took part in the secret talks, said the coup plans stalled.
On Twitter, Venezuelan Foreign Minister Jorge Arreaza denounced "U.S. government intervention plans and support for military plotting against Venezuela."
"Right there in U.S. media, new and disgusting evidence is there to see," he said.
After an explosives-laden drone attack near Maduro at an August 4 event in Caracas -- he blamed the U.S., Colombia and his domestic enemies -- the State Department condemned the "political violence" but also denounced what it said were the arbitrary detentions and forced confessions of suspects.
U.S. National Security Advisor John Bolton insisted there was "no U.S. government involvement" in the incident.
In August 2017, media reports said Trump asked top advisers about the potential for a U.S. invasion of Venezuela. Around the same time, he said publicly that he would not rule out a "military option" to end the chaos there.
Mari Carmen Aponte, who was a top U.S. diplomat for Latin American affairs under Trump's predecessor Barack Obama, told the Times that revelation of the secret meeting "is going to land like a bomb" in the region.