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Venezuela to expel U.S. ambassador

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  • President Hugo Chavez also says he is recalling Venezuela's ambassador
  • He said he was making the moves "in solidarity with ... the people of Bolivia"
  • Chavez also accuses United States of having backed a coup plot against him
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(CNN) -- Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez said Thursday he is recalling his own ambassador from Washington and expelling the U.S. ambassador from Venezuela.

"He has 72 hours, from this moment, the Yankee ambassador in Caracas, to leave Venezuela," Chavez told a crowd of supporters.

The president said he was making the moves "in solidarity with Bolivia and the people of Bolivia."

Bolivia's Evo Morales accused the United States Thursday of fomenting a coup d'etat by rich eastern department landowners against him, the country's first Indian president.

"We have seen reports about President Chavez's remarks but have not received any official diplomatic communication," said Gordon Duguid, a State Department spokesman. "Our embassy in Caracas is looking into these reports."

Also Thursday, Chavez accused the United States of having backed a coup plot against him.

"When there's a new government in the United States, we'll send an ambassador," he said. "A government that respects Latin America."

Earlier Thursday, Chavez said he has uncovered a U.S.-backed plot to remove him from power.

"It's the empire that's behind this," he told supporters in a nationally televised address. "They go around looking for a way to stop our revolution and, with it, to strike all the processes of change that are occurring in our Americas, in the Caribbean, in Central America."

Chavez then played a four-minute tape of what he said were conversations among current and retired members of the Venezuelan military discussing whom they could count on to support a movement against the presidential palace.

Chavez, who was briefly detained in a failed 2002 coup attempt, said the former plotters "are the same people involved in this coup attempt. Behind them is the American empire."

But he said the presence of two Russian warplanes on Venezuelan soil for a training exercise "is a warning" to the rest of the world that Venezuela's allies include Russia and other countries.

Chavez added that, should any country in Latin America be overthrown, he would interpret that to be "the green light to undertake military operations of any sort in those countries, and restore power back to the people."

And he had a message for President Bush, beseeching him, to "go wherever you have to go and leave the Latin-American people alone."

He added, "If they kill me, my God, I don't fear for me, but for what comes after."

A U.S. State Department spokesman denied involvement in any coup attempts in Venezuela or Bolivia.

All About Hugo ChavezVenezuelaU.S. Department of State

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