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Chavez Looks to Inner Circle as he Fights Cancer

Hugo Chavez has built an entire career on being Venezuela's one-man political messiah. Now his precarious health appears to be prompting him to look into his inner circle for those he thinks are most capable of managing his socialist revolution while he undergoes cancer treatment.

Those standing out include Chavez's elder brother, his foreign minister, his energy minister and a few trusted military officers, both current and former. They are all time-tested loyalists and committed leftists. Yet if Chavez has his mind set on any particular heir to power, he hasn't yet sent clear signals as to whom it would be.

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The Copa: Oldest International Football Tournament

The Copa America - the world's oldest international football tournament, going back to 1916, brings together some of the silkiest talents the global game has to offer.

A continental finishing school for the World Cup, or so the theory goes, the tournament allows perennial Latin American giants Brazil and Argentina a perfect opportunity to blood a new generation before, armed with the experience, they graduate to the senior tournament.

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Chavez Makes First TV Appearance after Surgery

Hugo Chavez appeared on Cuban state television Tuesday, with revolutionary icon Fidel Castro, for the first time since the Venezuelan president underwent emergency surgery in Cuba.

The 56-year-old appeared to have lost weight, but was animated in speech as usual as he stood alongside Castro, 84, the footage showed. The video also aired in Venezuela to dispel rumors about Chavez's medical condition.

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Chavez in 'Critical' Condition

Venezuela's President Hugo Chavez, who is in Cuba following emergency surgery, is in "critical" but stable condition, Miami's El Nuevo Herald reported, citing U.S. intelligence sources.

Chavez's government has said he was operated on for a pelvic abscess on June 10 and is recovering well; the president's brother has told Venezuelan state media that Chavez could return to Caracas in about two weeks.

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U.S. Says Won't Rule Out Options on Venezuela Sanctions

The United States said Friday it was monitoring Venezuela's ties to Iran and "no option" is off the table for potential sanctions against President Hugo Chavez's government in Caracas.

Kevin Whitaker, the acting deputy assistant secretary for Western Hemisphere affairs, said Washington was monitoring Venezuela for "patterns of support for acts of international terrorism."

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Raid on Rioting Venezuela Prison Leaves 3 Dead

At least two members of the Venezuelan National Guard and an inmate were dead Friday after security forces launched a massive operation to retake control of the El Rodeo prison, where 22 people have been killed in rioting.

Some 1,300 inmates were backed into a part of the prison and refused to surrender late Friday after a day-long raid involving thousands of National Guard troops managed to take over most the facility, gaining control of 70 percent of the prison population, estimated at around 4,700 inmates, officials said.

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U.S. Imposes Sanctions against Firms Dealing with Iran

The United States on Tuesday announced it is imposing sanctions against seven foreign firms, including Venezuelan, Singaporean, and Israeli companies, as part of efforts to check Iran's nuclear ambitions.

It also imposed sanctions against 16 other foreign firms and individuals, including from China, over trade with Iran, Syria and North Korea in goods or technology that may be used for weapons of mass destruction or missiles.

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One Dead as Swine Flu Returns to Venezuela

At least one person has died from a resurgence of swine flu in Venezuela that infected 12 other people, Health Minister Eugenia Sader said Thursday.

"We have an outbreak of H1N1 in the state of Merida," she said, adding that 12 people have tested positive for the disease and a 32-year-old has died.

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Libyan Rebels Reject Chavez Mediation Proposal

The Libyan opposition on Thursday flatly rejected a mediation proposal by Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez to find a peaceful solution to the crisis in the country, a spokesman said.

"We have a very clear statement. It's too late. Too much blood has been spilt," Mustafa Gheriani, a spokesman for the opposition's self-declared national council set up in the eastern city of Benghazi, told Agence France Presse.

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Scuffles Break Out in Venezuela's Congress Chamber

Scuffles and a fistfight erupted between allies and adversaries of President Hugo Chavez in Venezuela's National Assembly on Thursday, forcing security guards to separate two battling lawmakers.

It was the second scuffle among lawmakers since early January, when newly elected opposition lawmakers took their seats in a legislature that had for years been controlled almost exclusively by Chavez allies.

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