February 5, 2006

CORRECTED-Chavez says sees US plotting election sabotage

Corrects time of election in 5th paragraph

CARACAS, Venezuela (Reuters) - Venezuelan President Hugo
Chavez warned supporters on Sunday that the United States could
try to sabotage his upcoming re-election bid, his latest salvo
in a new row with Washington over alleged U.S. spying.

Left-wing Chavez, who frequently accuses the Bush
administration of seeking to overthrow him, has presented what
he calls the U.S. "empire" as his principal adversary in the
December election.

Washington believes Chavez's self-styled socialist
revolution risks destabilizing the region, but it has dismissed
as propaganda charges that it wants to oust him.

"They're going to call for the government to be rejected,
and they're going to try to push us toward a situation of
ungovernability and chaos," said Chavez. "This is the empire's
plan ... they'll try to do anything, so we need to be alert."

Venezuela's presidential election is set for December.

The accusation comes days after Chavez ordered the
expulsion of U.S. Naval Attache John Correa for allegedly
trying to convince Venezuelan military officials to pass state
secrets to the Pentagon.

The U.S. State Department denied the accusations, and on
Friday expelled the Venezuelan embassy chief of staff in a
tit-for-tat response.

Chavez told a rally of tens of thousands of supporters on
Saturday that he could shut down Venezuelan-owned refineries in
the United States if Washington severed ties with the oil-rich
South American nation.

He added that he would seek to arm 1 million Venezuelans to
protect the nation from a possible U.S. invasion.

Chavez has won over many poor Venezuelans with a
multibillion dollar social development program and harsh
rhetoric condemning U.S. foreign policy and free market

Last week Chavez announced a minimum wage hike, a tax cut
and new state spending initiatives, opening his campaign for an
election he is widely expected to sweep.

Under his leadership Venezuela, the fourth largest supplier
of oil to the United States, has worked to reduced U.S.
influence in the region and built alliances with U.S. foes like
Iran and Cuba.