Wed, Oct 08, 2003 - Page 7 News List

Chavez accuses CIA as bombings rock Venezuela

AFP , CARACAS

Tensions mounted in Venezuela Monday after bombings rocked the capital and an ally of Presi-dent Hugo Chavez accused the CIA of backing opponents trying to oust the beleaguered leader.

Two fuel tankers exploded late Sunday at the capital's municipal airport, 36 hours after the presidential guard barracks and the national telecommunications offices were bombed.

Lawmaker Nicolas Maduro said he would lobby US legislators to open any CIA files on Venezuela.

"Let them declassify the secret documents on CIA involvement and their financing of undercover activities during 2002-2003 because we have hard evidence that the terrorist attacks were planned," he said. He did not mention which US lawmakers would be asked to help.

He said the records would reveal CIA funding links to Vene-zuelan opposition groups seeking to oust Chavez.

Maduro also said he will seek US congressional approval for access to any CIA records related to a failed coup in April last year, which swept Chavez from power for less than two days.

"A group of legislators will go to Washington so that the secret documents on the coup d'etat are declassified so that we can know the names of those who have received money from the CIA to create this chaos in Venezuela," Maduro said.

After the coup, opposition political parties, business leaders and labor agreed to use only legal means to oust Chavez. The deal was brokered by former US president Jimmy Carter and the Organization of American States.

Venezuela's Constitution allows voters to recall the president at any time after the halfway point of the term, which Chavez has already passed.

Electoral authorities last week set the rules governing the collection of signatures to petition the government for a recall ballot.

Opponents must gather 12 million signatures, some 20 percent of the electorate, to petition for the recall referendum.

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