Venezuelan Catholic leaders have expressed concern that President Hugo Chavez is accumulating too much power and that he is seeking to weaken the opposition.

A statement issued by a group of bishops says there is an excessive concentration of power in the administration in which the autonomy of institutions seems to be disappearing.

The statement criticizes new laws restricting protests and regulating the broadcast media, saying they can be damaging to democracy.

Mr. Chavez was also recently accused by the United States and others of "packing" the Supreme Court with supporters.

The Catholic leaders accused the president of trying to install a socialist regime. Mr. Chavez accuses the church leaders of conspiring with his opponents to oust him from power.

Some information for this report provided by AP and Reuters.