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CARACAS, Venezuela - President Hugo Chavez's political mentor — who once persuaded the fiery leader to seek power through elections after he led a failed coup — now says the regime has "all the characteristics of a dictatorial government."
Luis Miquilena, who helped guide Chavez to his initial 1998 election win and later was his interior minister, spoke out Tuesday five years after he left Chavez's Cabinet, while hundreds of government opponents held a separate protest over a congressional measure that would grant Chavez broad powers to pass laws by decree.
"This is a government with a hypocritical authoritarianism that tries to sell the world certain democratic appearances," said the 87-year-old Miquilena, who has maintained a low profile since resigning from Chavez's government in early 2002.
"The government is not abiding by any rule. It has all the characteristics of a dictatorial government," Miquilena told reporters during a ceremony at the newspaper El Nacional, which is highly critical of the government.
A former communist and pioneer of Venezuela's labor movement, Miquilena was a close collaborator who helped Chavez after he led a failed coup in 1992 against then-President Carlos Andres Perez.
Miquilena provided financial support to Chavez's family while he was in prison for the two years after the coup attempt and convinced the former paratrooper once he was released to seek the presidency through elections.
Miquilena helped Chavez found the Fifth Republic Movement and formed alliances with other parties.
As Chavez's interior minister in 1999, Miquilena earned the reputation as a conciliator between Chavez's fiery rhetoric and the nervous opposition. But he left the government in 2002 after quarreling with Chavez and denouncing his "autocratic style."