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Venezuela's Chavez accuses Washington of trying to turn military against him

President Hugo Chavez said Sunday that the United States is trying to turn Venezuela's military against him to undermine a constitutional reform that could let him govern for decades. U.S. officials have denied similar accusations in the past.

Chavez, a former army lieutenant colonel who survived a short-lived 2002 coup, said his domestic opponents are collaborating with the U.S. Central Intelligence Agency to spur another putsch.

"The conspiracy has already begun. The messages are circulating in the barracks. The hand of the CIA, the empire, is behind this," Chavez said on his weekly radio and television program. "They are trying for a coup."

The Venezuelan leader did not elaborate or give evidence of the purported plot. He has made similar accusations before, which both opposition leaders and U.S. officials denied.

Last week, Chavez proposed a constitutional reform that would abolish limits on re-election and extend presidential terms from six to seven years. But he denies opponents' allegations that he wants to become a lifelong leader like his ally Fidel Castro of Cuba.

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