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Venezuela rivals accuse each other of military meddling

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(Globalpost/GlobalPost)

The Venezuelan opposition and the government accused each other on Wednesday of seeking support from the military to meddle in the April 14 election to replace late president Hugo Chavez.

Opposition lawmaker Alfonso Marquina presented to the National Electoral Council (CNE) a list of active military officers who, he said, "conduct activities to mobilize" voters for the election "in coordination with political leaders" of the ruling PSUV party.

Marquina also handed an official document from the National Bolivarian Armed Forces (FANB) that allegedly refers to the opposition as an "enemy" and demanded a response from the top election body.

"It demonstrates that all the high-ranking officials of the national government are involved in the official communication networks of the FANB, which must be at the service of the CNE on April 14," he said.

Opposition leader Henrique Capriles is hoping to pull an upset by defeating Chavez's designated successor, acting President Nicolas Maduro, in the election, which comes one month after Chavez lost his battle with cancer.

The brief campaign has already been marked by mudslinging between both candidates as they criss-cross the country to woo voters in the politically polarized country.

Maduro had accused the opposition on Tuesday of "looking for soldiers who would betray the people and betray the memory of comandante Chavez, and refuse to recognize the people's victory."

"Really, there are elements, groups, that want to act inside the armed forces," Defense Minister Diego Molero said on Wednesday, stressing that the military was "impregnable."

The opposition has accused Molero of taking sides in the election, when the armed forces should remain impartial. The minister has said that the military would fulfill the wishes of Chavez, who asked Venezuelans to elect Maduro.

Soldiers have interfered in politics in the past, taking part in a short-lived coup against Chavez in 2002 while the late president led his own failed putsch when he was a young colonel in 1992.

Chavez, who led Venezuela for 14 years, sought the loyalty of the armed forces and even described them as "Chavistas."

Before the October presidential election, in which he defeated Capriles by 11 points, Chavez created what he described as an "anti-coup" command.

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http://www.globalpost.com/dispatch/news/afp/130403/venezuela-rivals-accuse-each-other-military-meddling