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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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Venezuela Seeks Wedding Party Cholera Victims

Venezuelan health authorities appealed Thursday to more than 400 people exposed to cholera at a wedding in the Dominican Republic to report for treatment in order to head off an epidemic.

So far, 37 people have been treated for cholera in Venezuela but authorities were still trying to locate the rest of the 452 people who traveled to the Dominican Republic for the January 22 wedding.

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Chavez Dares U.S. to Cut Ties Over Ambassador Row

Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez dared the United States to expel his ambassador or cut off diplomatic ties in retaliation for his rejection of Washington's choice for ambassador to Caracas.

Tensions have been growing over Chavez's refusal to accept American diplomat Larry Palmer and also over U.S. criticisms of a legislative offensive by the president's congressional allies. Lawmakers have granted Chavez expanded powers to enact laws by decree for the next year and a half, a change that opponents condemn as antidemocratic.

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Torrential Rains in Venezuela Leave 21 Dead, Thousands Homeless

Flooding and landslides unleashed by torrential rains have killed at least 21 people in Venezuela, forced thousands from their homes and idled an oil refinery.

The death toll rose on Tuesday as authorities confirmed eight additional deaths in Caracas and nearby states. Vice President Elias Jaua said there had been 21 deaths nationwide since Thursday and about 5,600 people fled their homes.

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