Brazilian senators warn Chavez to watch his tongue

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BRASILIA, Sep 21 (Reuters) Irate Brazilian legislators told Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez today to tone down his criticism of their Congress or he would endanger Venezuela's entry into the South American trade bloc Mercosur.

Chavez accused legislators yesterday of acting on behalf of Washington in delaying Venezuela's request to enter Mercosur, which is made up of Brazil, Argentina, Uruguay and Paraguay.

Chavez, meeting Brazilian President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva in Manaus, said ''the hand of the empire'' was trying to prevent Venezuela's entry.

''Chavez's comments are unacceptable. We won't be pressured,'' Heraclito Fortes, head of the Senate foreign relations committee, told Reuters. ''His practice of bringing money to (pressure) other neighboring countries doesn't work here.'' The opposition Brazilian Social Democracy Party, or PSDB, said today it would try to keep Venezuela out of Mercosur on ethical and political grounds.

''On a fast-track toward dictatorship, the Chavez government doesn't meet the democratic clause of the Mercosur treaty,'' said Arthur Virgilio, PSDB Senate leader.

It is the second time in three months that Chavez upset Brazilian legislators. In June he called them parrots of the United States for criticizing his closure of an opposition TV station.

Brazil and Venezuela share the desire to deepen South American trade ties as a counterbalance to rich country interests but Lula has often distanced himself from Chavez's anti-market and nationalist policies.

REUTERS AK PM0150

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