- The Washington Times - Sunday, June 9, 2002

CARACAS, Venezuela Amid rumors of another coup plot in Venezuela, President Hugo Chavez called for unity within the armed forces yesterday and accused the media of trying to provoke a military uprising.
Such rumors have become common in Venezuela since April 12, when Mr. Chavez was briefly overthrown by dissident military officers. One of the latest rumors was sparked Tuesday, when local television broadcast a video showing 10 masked men in combat fatigues claiming to be officers opposed to Mr. Chavez's rule.
The government says there is no evidence the men are military, while opposition lawmakers disagree. Mr. Chavez, a self-proclaimed "revolutionary" who was elected in 1998, urged unity among the armed forces yesterday in a speech before naval officers in coastal Vargas state.
"United we will be invincible. Soldiers united. The people united. The nation united," Mr. Chavez said. "I continue with this call, even for those who don't want to listen."
Many in this crisis-stricken South American nation of 24 million are growing anxious about the possibility of another coup. Mr. Chavez was ousted for two days before military loyalists joined by thousands of civilian supporters returned him to power.
In the video broadcast Tuesday, the masked men threatened to repress any violence perpetrated by armed "Chavistas," a reference to Chavez supporters. Claiming to be active officers, the men said they represented a large group of high-ranking military officials opposed to Mr. Chavez's rule.
Opposition leaders insist the video is authentic.
"They are officers for the form in which they handled their swords and the language that is typical of the armed forces," said Henry Ramos, a leader of the Democratic Action opposition party.
Foreign Minister Roy Chaderton told a news conference on Friday that former military officers and government adversaries are planning another rebellion.
"There are small sectors, but they are well financed and very committed, who are trying to overthrow President Chavez," Mr. Chaderton said.
Yesterday, the local El Nacional daily published contents of an unsigned manifesto purportedly drafted by a group of National Guardsmen. In the document presumed officers claim Mr. Chavez is violating "meritocracy" by only promoting the soldiers he trusts the most.


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