November 13, 2014 / 4:23 PM / 3 years ago

Venezuela's ruling socialists set up hotline to nab 'infiltrators'

Venezuela's President Nicolas Maduro speaks during a meeting at Miraflores Palace in Caracas in this handout photo provided by the Miraflores Palace October 22, 2014. REUTERS/Miraflores Palace/Handout via Reuters

CARACAS (Reuters) - Venezuela’s ruling socialists have set up a telephone hotline to denounce “infiltrators” they say are jeopardizing the legacy of beloved late leader Hugo Chavez by seeking to destroy the socialist government.

“The enemy who most harms us is the enemy within our ranks. It’s the one who calls himself ‘Chavista’ but is not ‘Chavista,'” said Francisco Ameliach, governor of the state of Carabobo and a high-ranking member of the ruling PSUV party.

“Militants who foment disunity must be denounced,” he said, giving out a telephone number and email address that begins with the words “denounce infiltrators.”

Ameliach did not say how denounced infiltrators would be investigated or punished if found guilty.

The hotline idea comes as polls show President Nicolas Maduro, who won election to replace Chavez last year, is losing support amid an economic crisis and rampant crime in the South American OPEC nation of 30 million people.

Only 30 percent of Venezuelans approved of Maduro’s governance in September, down from a peak of 55 percent in April 2013, according to respected local pollster Datanalisis.

Venezuelans fed up with a more than 60 percent annual inflation rate and chronic shortages of basic goods, due in part to complex currency controls, are increasingly questioning the United Socialist Party of Venezuela (PSUV).

The party itself has also shown signs of inner dissent.

Marea Socialista, or “Socialist Tide,” a small but vocal group of leftist intellectuals within the PSUV has become highly critical of corruption, inefficiency and economic policy.

“With the disappearance of Chavez, some previously hidden internal forces are now trying to confuse the people,” Ameliach said during a radio show on Wednesday.

Maduro will hope to shore up support ahead of next year’s parliamentary elections, though the opposition Democratic Unity (MUD) coalition is also suffering from disunity and demoralization its ranks.

Reporting by Corina Pons and Eyanir Chinea; Writing by Alexandra Ulmer; Editing by Andrew Cawthorne and Leslie Adler

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