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Chavez Announces Detention of Americans

Associated Press | April 25, 2005
By ALICE M. CHACON

CARACAS, Venezuela - President Hugo Chavez said a military exchange program with the United States was canceled because U.S. officers in Venezuela were spreading a negative image of his government to the soldiers they were training.

He also announced the detention of several Americans and said the United States might be planning to invade his country.

The U.S. Embassy on Friday said Venezuela had abruptly and without explanation ended the 35-year-old military exchange program. Ambassador William Brownfield said the five U.S. officers in Venezuela involved in the program had been notified.

Some 90 Venezuelan military personnel were in the United States as part of the program, the embassy said. It was not clear how they would be affected.

During his weekly television and radio show, Chavez complained the U.S. officers "are sent here to turn our boys against us."

"It's best that they leave, until someday we can have transparent, clear relations and cooperation with the civil and military institutions of the United States, the way we do with almost all governments in the planet," Chavez said Sunday.

Chavez said that a woman in the U.S. armed forces had been detained by authorities while taking pictures of military installations in central Venezuela. He did not identify her or say whether she had been released.

"If she or any other U.S. official does this kind of activity again, they will be imprisoned and face trial in Venezuela," he said.

Chavez also said several American journalists were detained taking pictures of a refinery 60 miles west of Caracas. He did not elaborate except to say they were released.

Chavez said the cases indicated the U.S. might be planning to invade Venezuela.

Venezuela is a top U.S. oil supplier, but tensions have risen due to U.S. criticism of Venezuela's purchase of 100,000 assault rifles from Russia, and Chavez's continuous criticism of the U.S. occupation of Iraq .

Chavez accuses Washington of being behind a brief 2002 coup against him and of supporting other plots to oust him. U.S. officials deny the claims.

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