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Tuesday, 5 December, 2000, 23:14 GMT
US looking into alleged Chavez mischief

The American State Department says it's looking into reports that the Venezuelan president, Hugo Chavez, has been involved in attempts to destabilise Bolivia and Ecuador.

On Tuesday, the Miami Herald newspaper said that both countries had complained to Mr Chavez about his alleged support of violent opposition groups actively trying to bring down their governments. In the case of Bolivia, it's alleged Mr Chavez has been supporting an indigenous indian leader, Felipe Quispe, involved in violent protests earlier this year; in Ecuador, Mr Chavez is accused of giving financial support to a former army colonel who staged a coup attempt in January. The allegations come during a period of tense diplomatic relations between Venezuela and Colombia, over Mr Chavez's alleged support for Colombia's left-wing guerrillas.

Correspondents say Mr Chavez has already raised concerns in Washington with recent visits to Iraq and Libya and close ties with the Cuban leader, Fidel Castro.

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