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Chavez says Salvadoran man detained in Venezuela is suspect in Cuba bombings

CARACAS, Venezuela (AP) — A Salvadoran man wanted by Cuba as a suspect in a series of bombings was arrested with a false passport at Caracas' airport, Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez said Friday.

Chavez said the suspect, Francisco Chavez Abarca, was detained upon arrival Thursday by Venezuelan intelligence agents and is accused of placing bombs in Havana in 1997.

He called the Salvadoran a "big terrorist" who is closely associated with Cuban militant Luis Posada Carriles, a former CIA operative wanted for allegedly plotting the 1976 bombing of a Cuban plane that killed 73 people.

"My heart tells me this gentleman came here to kill me. I have no doubt," the president said.

"I'm sure this man didn't come here for tourism. He came here to place bombs, to see how to hunt an objective that has a price: my head," Chavez said, adding that he is tightening his security.

Chavez has demanded for years that the U.S. extradite Posada, a longtime foe of Fidel Castro, to be tried on charges of plotting the airliner bombing while living in Caracas. Posada faces trial in El Paso, Texas, in January in a perjury case, accused of lying to U.S. authorities about his alleged involvement in 1997 bombings in Cuba that killed an Italian tourist.

Posada has denied the allegations against him.

Chavez noted that Posada also lived for many years in El Salvador, the suspect's homeland.

Cuba had put out a "red notice" through Interpol for the arrest of the Salvadoran, Chavez said. He accused the man of slipping into Cuba years ago on a mission to kill Castro.

"Since he couldn't, he started placing bombs," Chavez said, without elaborating.

Reading from accusations against the suspect, Chavez said Cuban authorities believe he placed an explosive that damaged a hotel disco on April 2, 1997, and another one later that month that failed to explode on the 15th floor of the same hotel.

Cuba also suspects him in the bombing of a Cuban government tourist office in Mexico on May 24, 1997, Chavez said, as well as recruiting others in bombing tourist sites in Cuba in 1997 and 1998.

Cuban officials did not immediately make any public statements about the arrest.

When he arrived at Simon Bolivar International Airport, the man initially gave a false name, then later acknowledged his true identity, Chavez said. He said Venezuelan authorities have been interrogating him and plan to turn him over to Interpol to be sent to Cuba.

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Associated Press writer Sharelly De Santis in Caracas contributed to this report.

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