INTERNATIONAL NEWS - Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez stepped up a dispute with Paraguay over the removal of its president, withdrawing military attaches and calling last month's impeachment a US-backed "coup."
The two countries have been at loggerheads since Paraguayan president Fernando Lugo was hastily impeached on June 22.
Regional blocs Mercosur and UNASUR have suspended Asuncion's membership, saying he was denied due process.
But while Venezuela has also condemned the impeachment, Paraguay's new government has accused Venezuelan Foreign Minister Nicolas Maduro of having tried to incite a military intervention in the midst of the crisis.
Speaking Thursday at a military parade in honor of the 201st anniversary of Venezuela's declaration of independence from Spain, Chavez said he had withdrawn military attaches from Asuncion because they were not safe there.
"I ordered them to relocate to Buenos Aires, because there had been death threats, threats against our people in the embassy, who are accused of plotting a coup," Chavez said.
"But the coup was ordered, it was a decision of the Pentagon, and now we have this authoritarian enclave," added Chavez, a leftist firebrand who frequently denounces US "imperialism" in Latin America.
Chavez admitted that Maduro was in Asuncion as the impeachment drama unfolded, but said he was there with other foreign ministers as part of a UNASUR delegation trying to resolve the crisis.
In Paraguay, Lugo was asked in an interview with local radio on Thursday about the allegations of Venezuelan meddling. He hung up the phone in response.
The two countries have recalled their ambassadors since the impeachment, and Venezuela has cut off oil exports to Paraguay.
Chavez presided over the military parade held in honor of the bicentennial plus one after missing the ceremonies last year because he was recovering from the removal of a cancerous tumor in his pelvis.
Chavez has battled cancer for much of the past year, receiving several rounds of chemotherapy and radiation treatment in Cuba, his closest ally.
The government has released few details about his health, fueling speculation ahead of elections in October, in which he is seeking another six-year term after governing the country since 1999.
The parade featured a wide array of Russian-made arms, including AK-103 Dragunov rifles, T-72 tanks, BMP-3 armed combat vehicles, antimissile systems, artillery launchers, helicopters and Sukhoi fighter jets.
Source : Sapa