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Venezuela: Chávez followers said to be training for referendum in Cuba


SANTA CLARA, Cuba, February 1 ( - Up to 7,200 young followers of Venezuelan president Hugo Chávez could be training in Cuba in preparation for an upcoming referendum Chávez may be facing as early as next April.

According to a source in Cuba's educational system who asked to remain anonymous, the youths are receiving "political and ideological" training at four sites around the island. 1,200 are reportedly lodged in the school for social workers in Santa Clara, in central Cuba, and 2,000 each are in similar facilities in Santiago de Cuba, Holguín, and Havana. More are expected to follow this first group, said the source.

Students at the nearby Provincial School of Art Instructors report that the Venezuelans are not allowed to mix with the locals, and only venture out of the facility in planned, escorted visits. Some of the students also expressed resentment at the Venezuelans' privileges, saying they receive better food and medical care and even have available digital audio visual equipment, whereas they have to rent such equipment when needed.

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