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Chavez's political football

By Channel 4 News

Updated on 26 June 2007

Ahead of Channel 4 News online's new series on politics and football, the Copa America kicks off today in Venezuela.

The world's oldest football tournament, the Copa America, kicks off in Venezuela later today when Uruguay face Peru.

The holders, Brazil, and Argentina are favourites to win the tournament, which takes place every three years.

The host nation has put some $1 billion into the construction of two new stadiums and the renovation of seven others in a bid to showcase the country's socialist revolution under Hugo Chavez.

The tournament has already been touched by political controversy after President Chavez responded to US State Department warnings to American citizens about violence and terrorist attacks in Venezuela.

He said: "Here there won't be terrorism or violence. The Venezuelan state, people and military are on their feet and alert to any attempt to sabotage the tremendous tournament which is already beginning in Venezuela."

However, tournament officials recently moved the 10 July semifinal from Caracas to Maracaibo, nearly 500 miles south east of the Venezuelan capital, citing security concerns.

In the last tournament, in Peru in 2004, Brazil beat Argentina on penalties.

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