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Venezuela Denies Backing Mexican Presidential Candidate


Venezuela's foreign minister has rejected reports that President Hugo Chavez is funneling money to a leftist candidate in Mexico's presidential campaign.

Foreign Minister Ali Rodriguez told state television that Mexican media and sectors of the government run a constant smear campaign against Venezuela.

A Mexican newspaper, La Cronica, published allegations that Venezuela is helping fund the presidential campaign of Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador, a leading contender to succeed President Vicente Fox in July elections. Mr. Fox's ruling PAN party has called for an investigation.

Mexico and Venezuela withdrew their ambassadors late last year after Mr. Chavez and Mr. Fox traded barbs over the U.S.-backed Free Trade Area of the Americas, which Venezuela opposes and Mexico supports.

A recent poll by the Mexico City newspaper El Universal, gives Lopez Obrador of the Democratic Revolution Party, or PRD, the lead in the presidential race, with 42 percent of voter support. His closest rival, Felipe Calderon of the president's PAN party, trails with 32 percent. Roberto Madrazo of Mexico's longtime former ruling party, PRI is in third place with 24 percent.

Some information for this report was provided by AP and Reuters.