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Tuesday, 14 May, 2002, 23:57 GMT 00:57 UK
US investigates Venezuela coup role
Chavez supporters
Supporters reinstated Chavez two days after the 'coup'
The US State Department has said it is investigating how its officials handled events surrounding last month's short-lived coup against the Venezuelan president, Hugo Chavez, following allegations that the US sponsored the attempt to force him out.

President Chavez: 'Proof' of US involvement
On Tuesday the US Government denied allegations that an American military vessel entered Venezuelan waters during the failed coup.

Mr Chavez has said he has proof of US military involvement in the events in April.

Washington has consistently denied it had any part in the attempt to bring down Mr Chavez's government, which foundered after only a few days.

American vessels

Mr Chavez has said he has radar images showing a foreign military vessel, a plane and a helicopter violating the country's waters and air space.

But the US embassy in Caracas said the only American vessels near the Venezuelan seas at the time were two US Coast Guard ships taking part in an operation to combat drug trafficking.

"US government officials both in Washington and Caracas repeatedly and consistently emphasised the United States' disapproval of an unconstitutional alteration of power in Venezuela," a statement from the embassy said.

However, America's failure immediately to condemn the coup during the attempted overthrow, prompted the chairman of a key Senate subcommittee, Senator Christopher Dodd, to request the state department inquiry.

A long-time critic of US policy in Latin America, Senator Dodd has raised concerns that Washington appeared to condone the removal of Mr Chavez.

Mr Chavez was ousted by military officers on 12 April, following the deaths of 17 people in anti-government protests. He was reinstated two days later.

The BBC's Nick Miles
"It's difficult to see how the two Venezuelas can reconcile their different agendas."
See also:

13 May 02 | Newsnight
Warning to Venezuelan leader
07 May 02 | From Our Own Correspondent
Rift in Venezuelan society
15 Apr 02 | Americas
Washington's Chavez dilemma
15 Apr 02 | Business
Oil prices rise on Chavez return
14 Apr 02 | Media reports
Chavez calls for national unity
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