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Chavez threatens military action over Honduras coup

CARACAS (Reuters) - Venezuela’s President Hugo Chavez on Sunday put his troops on alert over a coup in Honduras and said he would respond militarily if his envoy to the Central American country was killed or kidnapped.

A demonstrator holds a poster of Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez as she takes part in a show of support for Honduras' President Manuel Zelaya outside the Honduras embassy in Caracas June 28, 2009. REUTERS/Edwin Montilva

Chavez said Honduran soldiers took away the Cuban ambassador and left the Venezuelan ambassador on the side of a road after beating him during the army’s coup against Honduran President Manuel Zelaya.

The Honduran army ousted Zelaya and exiled him on Sunday in Central America’s first military coup since the Cold War, after he upset the army by trying to win re-election.

Chavez, on state television, said if the Venezuela ambassador was killed, or troops entered the Venezuela embassy, “that military junta would be entering a defacto state of war, we would have to act militarily.” He said, “I have put the armed forces of Venezuela on alert.”

The socialist Chavez leads a group of leftist countries that includes the government of Honduras and he has in the past threatened military action in the region but never followed through.

Chavez said that if a new government is sworn in after the coup it would be defeated.

“We will bring them down, we will bring them down, I tell you,” he said.

The United States has long accused the former soldier of being a destabilizing force in Latin America. Chavez himself tried to take power in a coup in 1992 and was briefly ousted in a 2002 putsch but was reinstated after protests.

In 2008 Chavez ordered tanks to the border with Colombia after Colombian troops attacked a guerrilla base in Ecuador, which is part of a coalition of leftist Latin American countries that Venezuela heads. That crisis was diffused without violence a few days later.

Some Latin American leaders from Chavez’s ALBA coalition are planning to meet in Nicaragua to discuss what action to take over the situation in Honduras. ALBA’s nine members include Bolivia, Cuba, Ecuador, Honduras and Nicaragua.

Ecuador said on Sunday it will not recognize any new government in Honduras.

Editing by Vicki Allen