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NEWS & COMMENTARY 2008 SPEAKERS 2007 2006 2005

Saturday, August 19, 2006

Chavez: Venezuela captured 4 U.S spies

CARACAS, Venezuela - President Hugo Chavez said Friday that Venezuela has caught four people spying for the U.S. government and has turned them over to the Americans.

Speaking at a campaign rally, Chavez referred to the four after reading aloud a news report about the U.S. naming a "mission manager" for Cuba and Venezuela to oversee U.S. intelligence efforts for the two countries.

The Venezuelan leader gave few details about the circumstances, or how recently the four cases occurred. But he said one woman was caught not long ago while taking photos — of what it remained unclear — in the north-central city of Valencia.

"I've caught four of their spies, four, and I've put them back in their hands. Not long ago we caught a very beautiful woman in Valencia, taking photos," Chavez told the rally in western Venezuela.

Chavez consistently accuses the U.S. of conspiring to oust him and often asserts the
CIA is working to destabilize his government. Last year he ordered one U.S.-based missionary group out of Indian communities where they worked, accusing them of spying for the CIA.

In his latest comments, Chavez apparently was counting among the four a naval attache at the U.S. Embassy whom he accused of spying in February and ordered out of the country. The U.S. government responded to that move by expelling a Venezuelan diplomat from Washington.

A U.S. Embassy official did not immediately return calls seeking comment about Chavez's accusations.

Speaking to a sea of supporters, Chavez read the name of the official named by Negroponte to head the Cuba and Venezuela mission, 32-year intelligence veteran J. Patrick Maher, and laughed.

"They selected 'Jack the Ripper,'" Chavez said. "What a little problem this is."

"These are signs that the empire doesn't rest," Chavez said, referring to the U.S. "The plan to try to destabilize us has already begun."

He predicted the U.S. could try to discredit the results of Venezuela's Dec. 3 presidential election, in which Chavez is seeking another six-year term, or could try to provoke violent unrest around the time of the vote.

U.S. officials have denied trying to overthrow the leftist Chavez, who is Cuban President
Fidel Castro's close ally and friend.
President Bush's government has repeatedly labeled Chavez a threat to democracy.

Chavez warned that Venezuelans should be prepared for a "war of resistance" in case U.S. troops one day invade — a possibility Washington calls preposterous.

He also accused his opponents in the presidential race of being "the empire's candidates," and he broke out singing at one point, "Yankee go home!"

He said the Venezuelan government has followed the activities of U.S. spies closely. "I know where they go out to eat 'reina pepiada,'" Chavez said, referring to a Venezuelan dish of "arepa" corn cakes filled with avocado and chicken.

"In a way, it's an honor that they put us alongside revolutionary Cuba" in naming an espionage point man for both countries, Chavez said.

"How are you, Fidel?" he added, saying he believed the ailing Cuban leader was watching the televised speech. "Long live Fidel!"
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