Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez on Wednesday accused opposition presidential candidates of taking orders and receiving secret funding from the US government during campaigning ahead of this year's elections. Chavez called the opposition's presidential contenders "candidates of the empire" and said they have met with "the emissaries of the devil, with CIA officials," as well as officials from the US Embassy. "They've begun to meet in secret," Chavez told thousands of supporters during a campaign speech in the western city of Maracaibo. Without mentioning names, he said opposition candidates have begun "to receive money - more than what they have - and not only that, to receive orders." US Embassy spokesman Brian Penn flatly denied that any US funding has gone to opposition candidates.