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Turmoil In Venezuela

A Venezuelan Navy vice admiral demanded Monday that President Hugo Chavez resign in the latest show of discontent among the military top brass with the leftist president's stewardship of the South American nation.

Vice Adm. Carlos Molina Tamayo, who serves as Venezuela's ambassador to Greece, urged his colleagues at a news conference in Caracas to add their voices to increasing demands that Chavez step down.

Molina Tamayo was the highest-ranking officer to demand that Chavez, a former army paratrooper, resign.

Earlier this month, an air force colonel and a National Guard captain also demanded Chavez's resignation. Their demands generated spontaneous anti-Chavez protests that drew thousands to Caracas' streets and spurred millions of dollars in capital flight.

Wearing his full colors and reading a prepared statement, Molina Tamayo accused Chavez and a National Assembly, Supreme Court, elections board and finance ministry dominated by Chavez allies of seeking to impose a totalitarian regime here.

He warned that Chavez's combative style of government, and his creation of neighborhood committees known as "Bolivarian Circles," could provoke unnecessary bloodshed between Chavez defenders and an increasingly potent opposition.

The vice admiral — who said he was trained in electronic warfare in the United States — accused Chavez of veering Venezuela away from its traditional allies, such as Washington, and damaging its interests by cozying up to Cuba and other totalitarian regimes.

"I publicly state my rejection of the conduct of President Chavez and his regime," he said. "We demand a truly democratic system."

Molina Tamayo condemned what he called "a lack of state of law" in Venezuela; condemned Venezuela's relations with "the terrorist Colombian guerrillas;" lambasted what he called illicit "enrichment" of top government officials; accused Chavez of installing "an extreme leftist" regime; and demanded an end to Venezuelan sales of oil to Cuba.

His demands were likely to exacerbate uncertainty about Venezuela's political stability and its economic prospects.

Investors and citizens sent hundreds of millions of dollars abroad after the earlier demands for Chavez's resignation by Air Force Col. Pedro Soto and National Guard Capt. Pedro Flores, who claimed to be speaking for most of Venezuela's armed forces.

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