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Venezuela's leftists in turmoil as Chavez tightens grip

When he stresses the need for solidarity, Hugo Chavez often points to Salvador Allende, Chile's Marxist president who died in a military coup in 1973.

The bickering among the leftist parties that made up Allende's base crippled his government, the Venezuelan president tells audiences, and paved the way for Gen. Augusto Pinochet to seize power, ushering in a 17-year military dictatorship in which 3,000 people were killed or disappeared.

Partly to avoid a similar fate, Chavez is demanding that the 24 parties in his governing coalition — everyone from lukewarm liberals to die-hard communists — disband and join his new United Socialist Party of Venezuela. The powerful new party, he says, would accelerate his drive to implant socialism in the country.

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