Venezuela is bracing for another coup attempt against the leftist President, Hugo Chavez, today as a flurry of clandestine videos, pamphlets and e-mail speculation feeds hysteria.
People have been stockpiling weapons and food, wary of a repeat of April's violence in which at least 70 people were killed in street protests and looting.
Pro-government supporters have converged on Caracas to keep a constant vigil outside the Presidential Palace. Massed protests calling for the President to resign are scheduled for today.
The Defense Minister, General Lucas Rincon, called for calm, describing the forecasts of an imminent coup as "a series of lies, trying to create anxiety and fear". He announced an inquiry into the source of the rumors. Fears are widespread that Venezuela, the biggest oil producer outside the Middle East, is on the verge of civil war.
Analysts say the opposition, comprising dissident military officers, clergymen, labor and business interests, and media proprietors opposed to the President's "Bolivarian revolution", are encouraging tensions. Right-wing politicians have urged the Prosecutor General to charge Mr Chavez with embezzling the equivalent of £1.55bn from the government-investment fund.
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