Venezuela’s information minister said Monday that U.S. officials
were urging opponents of President Hugo Chavez to boycott a December presidential
vote. But U.S. officials dismissed the charge.
Information Minister Willian Lara said U.S. Embassy officials have held meetings
with presidential candidates who side with the opposition and urged them to pull
out of the election campaign ahead of the Dec. 3 vote.
“We have information about meetings that have been held in which the idea
of participating in the electoral campaign until November and then withdrawing
from it has been proposed,” Lara told a press conference.
U.S. Embassy spokeswoman Salome Hernandez, referring to Lara’s allegations,
said: “We don’t respond to baseless accusations.”
Chavez, a close ally of Cuban leader Fidel Castro, has repeatedly accused the
Bush administration of conspiring with Venezuela’s opposition to topple
his “revolutionary” government. U.S. officials have repeatedly denied
Candidates hoping to challenge Chavez in the presidential vote deny taking orders
from the U.S. government.
Opposition leaders are demanding an independent audit of the voter registry
and a manual vote count to guarantee a transparent election. They have threatened
to boycott the vote if their demands are not met by the National Elections Council,
which is viewed by many government foes as pro-Chavez.
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