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Expanding Power Puts Family of Venezuelan President Under Increasing Scrutiny

SABANETA, Venezuela, Feb. 13 — At the entrance to this dusty town where Hugo Chávez was born in 1954, a billboard welcomes visitors with a gleaming image of Mr. Chávez, the president, and the words, “Cradle of the Revolution.”

Other billboards and posters throughout Sabaneta show Mr. Chávez embracing his younger brother Aníbal, Sabaneta’s mayor, and his father, Hugo de los Reyes Chávez, the governor of Barinas, the surrounding state. Such reminders of the power amassed by Mr. Chávez’s family have been ubiquitous here since he ascended to the presidency eight years ago.

From a humble start in a dirt-floored adobe home that was bulldozed to make way for a hamburger stand, the family’s widening political clout has been increasingly scrutinized as critics call attention to abuses of power and corruption charges throughout the institutions now controlled by Mr. Chávez, including the National Assembly, the Supreme Court and the federal bureaucracy. Revelations of corruption under his family’s watch in Barinas and accusations of nepotism have dogged Mr. Chávez even as he makes combating such irregularities one of the priorities of his government.

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