Caracas - President Nicolas Maduro on Tuesday denounced as "psychological war" a leaked audio recording that purports to show a power struggle among key followers of the late Hugo Chavez.
In the recording, which has set off a sensation since it was made public on Monday by an opposition lawmaker, a well-known government newscaster is heard accusing National Assembly speaker Diosdado Cabello of conspiring against Maduro.
The newscaster, Mario Silva, dismissed the recording as a montage pieced together from his television show. He later announced he was suspending the show indefinitely for undisclosed health reasons.
Cabello insisted there was "monolithic unity" among Chavez's followers, and on Tuesday he called a vote in the National Assembly to squelch an opposition call for an investigation into charges made in the recording.
In his first public response to the recording, Maduro attacked the opposition deputy who made it public, Ismael Garcia.
"We have to keep our defences up high and on alert because behind this garbage called Ismael Garcia there is a psychological war to try to destroy the Bolivarian revolution, and to divide it," he said in a speech to employees of the state telephone company.
‘Money and power’
The recording purports to capture a conversation between Silva and Aramis Palacios, a Cuban intelligence chief, that according to Garcia was held days after Venezuela's 14 April presidential election.
Maduro was declared the winner by a narrow margin, but the results are being contested by opposition candidate Henrique Capriles, who says the election was stolen.
Maduro was hand-picked by Chavez to succeed him before his death in March of cancer, and Cabello has assumed the role of the loyal number two in Chavez's leftist movement.
On the recording, however, Silva is heard warning Palacios that Cabello, a former military officer who took part in a failed coup attempt that Chavez led in 1992, controlled several intelligence agencies and "what he is interested in is money and power."
He said Maduro was caught in a bind, and ran the risk that Cabello's followers will "take the armed forces and force Maduro to do their bidding or launch a coup."