Venezuela's Chavez splits with former allied party

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CARACAS, Oct 11 (Reuters) Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez has split with a political party that was once the second largest of his leftist coalition, calling his former allies ''traitors'' and ''cowards.'' Chavez's drive to consolidate a handful of leftist parties into a single socialist party under his leadership and rewrite the constitution to scrap term limits has alienated some allies including the Podemos party, which has slowly been losing favor with the leftist leader.

''Out with the traitors, cowards, the two-faced, corrupt, ambitious and mean-spirited people,'' Chavez said at a political rally of his newly created United Socialist Party of Venezuela yesterday.

''If there are still honest people in that party they should come quickly because that ship is going to sink.'' Podemos leader Ismael Garcia in recent days criticized Chavez's constitutional reform proposal, which would remove the current two-term limit a president can stay in power.

Chavez hopes to ratify the constitutional changes in a referendum in December that pollsters predict he will win.

Reuters SYU GC2123

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