May 28, 2006

Chavez says US working for coup in Bolivia

By Lorraine Orlandi

CARACAS, Venezuela (Reuters) - Venezuelan President Hugo
Chavez on Sunday accused the United States of trying to stir up
a military rebellion against his left-wing Bolivian ally
President Evo Morales.

Chavez, at the forefront of a leftist shift that is
challenging American influence in Latin America, blames
Washington for a 2002 coup attempt that briefly toppled his own

"The (U.S.) Embassy in Bolivia is already whispering in the
ears of the Bolivian military to turn them against the
government of Evo Morales," Chavez said during his weekly
television program, which was broadcast from Bolivia.

"There is a plan against Bolivia and the U.S. ambassador in
Bolivia is the head of this plan," he said. "The devil is

Chavez is visiting Bolivia to sign deals for $1.5 billion
in energy investments in the impoverished nation.

It was the latest salvo in a war of words between Chavez, a
self-proclaimed revolutionary and leader of the world's No. 5
oil exporter, and the administration of President George W.

Last week, Bush said he was concerned about the erosion of
democracy in Venezuela and Bolivia. The White House has accused
Venezuela of being uncooperative in the U.S. war against
terrorism and of promoting instability in the region.

Chavez and Morales are close allies and, with Cuban
President Fidel Castro, have formed a leftist alliance that
aims to counter what they call U.S. political and economic
hegemony in Latin America.

"Gringo go home," Chavez, a former paratrooper, said during
Sunday's broadcast. He said the U.S. government is willing to
pay soldiers to turn them against the Bolivian government.

"The gringos offer lots of money," he said. "There are
soldiers who sell themselves to the CIA ... and they're paid by

Morales surprised investors by nationalizing the energy
industry on May 1 in an apparent move to cement his power and
build support ahead of elections this year for a special
assembly to rewrite the constitution.

Chavez, who is running for reelection in December, has used
oil income to finance social programs for the poor and solidify
his support in the region.