Saturday, October 25, 2008

Chavez says security concerns will keep him from summit

Venezuela's President Hugo Chavez on Saturday announced he will not attend an upcoming summit in El Salvador due to security problems, while also charging that an opposition governor was trying to kill him.
Chavez was to have attended a meeting of heads of state and government from Spain, Portugal and their ex-colonies in the Americas October 29-31. But "I have just called off my trip to El Salvador to the Ibero-American Summit because my life is not guaranteed safe," Chavez told businessmen at an event in Maracaibo, saying he made the call after "a series of information" of concern. The leftist leader, a staunch critic of the US government, said that in Central America "there are (Venezuelan) military people under the protection of Central American governments, the CIA and FBI," who were plotting to assassinate him. He also mentioned the "Cuban-American mafias of (Luis) Posada Carriles," a fugitive from Venezuelan justice convicted here for the 1976 bombing of a civilian airliner. Separately Chavez accused opposition governor Manuel Rosales of seeking to kill him, and warned he could be jailed. "He is trying to kill me," Chavez said on national television. "I am not going to kill him. I don't kill anyone, but I am head of state.... I am determined to put Manuel Rosales behind bars," Chavez added to roaring applause. The president urged prosecutors to act amid allegations that "11 estates have his name on them, luxurious homes, capital movements, legal fronts, mafias, drug trafficking, arms arsenals. "There is plenty of evidence to work with," Chavez said. "I am leading 'Operation Manuel Rosales, You are Going to Jail.'" Rosales was Chavez's opponent in the 2006 election in which Chavez was reelected. Now Rosales is running for mayor of oil-rich Maracaibo in a November 23 vote, in which Chavez could see opposition to his socialist government rise.
Caracas and 17 states are led by Chavez's ruling party, while four others are led by dissidents in the official party and opposition governors hold sway in two states. Polls say opposition forces could take five to seven states in the elections which Chavez calls crucial to continuing his socialist rule. Chavez is the key international backer of Cuba's communist government, and has close ties with leftist leaders in Bolivia, Nicaragua and Ecuador.

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