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Sunday, 9 June, 2002, 00:43 GMT 01:43 UK
Venezuela coup rumour dismissed
Hugo Chavez
Chavez accused the media and political opponents
Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez has moved to quash rumours that disaffected army officers were planning to overthrow the government.

Mr Chavez, who was ousted in a brief coup in April, said political rivals and the media were behind growing speculation that a new rebellion was being planned.


I'm calling on the country not to fall for tricks and rumours

Hugo Chavez, Venezuelan president
It comes after Venezuelan television broadcast a video of 10 masked men who claimed to represent a large group of army officers opposed to Mr Chavez's rule.

The government has dismissed the tape as fraud.

Speaking to naval officers in Guaira, in Vargas state, the president dispelled rumours of another impending coup.

"I'm calling on the country not to fall for tricks and rumours, let's call them rumours spread by those who want to keep us in a state of shock, like a form of terrorism," he said.

Mr Chavez said it was an attempt by his opponents to destabilise his government.

Tape disputed

Fears of an armed revolt have persisted since television channels aired the video tape on Tuesday.

In it, the masked men praised the coup and warned of civil war, saying they would crush any violence by Chavez's supporters.

A government spokesman denied the men were army officers, while opposition leaders said they believed the men were genuine.

On Friday, Venezuelan Foreign Minister Roy Chaderton said former army officers and political opponents were planning a coup.

"They are looking for new rebellious formulas to put an end to the democratic system," he told reporters.

Growing discontent

President Chavez was toppled in a short-lived rebellion by army officers in April following the deaths of 17 people in anti-government demonstrations.

Fidel Castro (left) and Hugo Chavez
Chavez has formed a close friendship with Castro

He was returned to power two days later by loyal troops as thousands of supporters took to the streets in protest against the coup.

There has being growing discontent among army officers and sections of Venezuelan society as the country continues to face severe social and economic problems three years after Mr Chavez came to power.

Political opponents have blamed the president for dividing the country along class lines and harming foreign investment through left-wing policies and a close relationship with Cuban leader Fidel Castro.

Opinion polls suggest Mr Chavez's his popularity has dropped from highs of 80% when he was elected to just 30% shortly before the coup.


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