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Former Chavez Ally Tells VOA Venezuela Faces Multiple Crises

Retired Defense Minister claims President's rhetoric is meant to divert attention from the country's problems

Washington, D.C., February 15, 2008 - During today's live Spanish television broadcast of Foro Interamericano (Interamerican Forum), retired Venezuelan Minister of Defense General Raul Isaias Baduel told the Voice of America (VOA) that his country is facing an economic, political, and social crisis, and that President Hugo Chavez's actions are meant to distract the Venezuelan people from this and other serious issues the country faces.

The former Defense Minister, who broke with his former boss and political ally, Hugo Chavez, in advance of a December constitutional referendum, also criticized the Venezuelan President's contacts with the FARC guerillas in neighboring Colombia, saying it created "confusion, restlessness, and rejection within the Venezuelan Armed Forces."

Interviewed by telephone from Caracas, Baduel maintained that Chavez lost considerable public support after losing the December referendum, and this has caused him to increase his rhetoric.

"Like any other populist leader, [Chavez] needs the approval and the support from the masses in order to stay in power. Hence, his verbal incontinence, solely for personal gains, and to capitalize on his image," Baduel said.

The interview, and the entire Foro Interamericano program, can be viewed on VOA's Spanish-language website, Foro Interamericano airs live Fridays at 1330 UTC (8:30 a.m. EST).

The Voice of America, which first went on the air in 1942, is a multimedia international broadcasting service funded by the U.S. government through the Broadcasting Board of Governors. VOA broadcasts more than 1,000 hours of news, information, educational, and cultural programming every week to an estimated worldwide audience of more than 115 million people. Programs are produced in 45 languages.

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