By Andrew Cawthorne
CARACAS (Reuters) - Socialist Party legislators called on Monday for a probe of another Venezuelan opposition leader accused of conspiring against President Nicolas Maduro, just days after the mayor of Caracas was arrested on similar charges.
The opposition fears an investigation against Julio Borges, a parliamentarian and national coordinator of the Primero Justicia (Justice First) party, could signal a wider crackdown.
Maduro's foes accuse him of trying to distract Venezuelans from a severe economic crisis and intimidate the opposition, which is optimistic about winning control of parliament in a vote due later this year.
"Today, we will go to the Public Prosecutor's office to request a preliminary investigation against Borges," Pedro Carreno, who heads the Socialists' parliamentary bloc, said via Twitter. "If there are elements for conviction, that requires the Supreme Court to hold a pre-hearing."
The request to investigate Borges follows the high-profile arrest of metropolitan mayor Antonio Ledezma, who is accused of conspiring with violent radicals.
Government officials and state media have alleged both Ledezma and Borges were involved in a coup plot spearheaded by air force officers with U.S. backing.
They say the charges against them are false and a smokescreen to hide a severe recession, near-70 percent annual inflation and chronic shortages.
"We have to be ready in case the government illegally detains Julio Borges at any moment," fellow opposition leader Henry Ramos said on Monday, according to local media.
Borges, a veteran politician, lawyer and father-of-four, is a long-time critic of the government over corruption and misusing the country's oil wealth. He won prominence in 2013 when he was punched in the face during a parliamentary brawl.
He says he is focused on overturning the government's majority during the coming vote. No poll date has yet been set.
Government supporters frequently remind voters that Borges supported a short-lived 2002 coup against Maduro's predecessor, Hugo Chavez. National Assembly president Diosdado Cabello recently accused him of planning to murder Leopoldo Lopez - another jailed opposition leader - in 2014 to sow chaos.
(Additional reporting by Alexandra Ulmer. Editing by Andre Grenon)