Venezuela to Spend 10 Bln Bolivars on Flooding Relief

Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez said he will allocate 10 billion bolivars ($2.33 billion) to an emergency fund to pay for relief efforts after rains caused flooding and landslides in much of the country.

Chavez, speaking on state television, extended a state of emergency to four more states. The rains, which intensified a week ago, have killed at least 32 people nationwide. A soldier was swept away by currents in the Guajira area on the Colombian border, he said, without saying if the soldier had died.

Chavez said the measure would help bring aid to the states of Zulia, Merida, Trujillo and Nueva Esparta. A state of emergency had already been declared in the states of Vargas, Miranda and Falcon.

Venezuelans who have been forced from their homes because of the flooding will be paid a Christmas bonus of 1,223 bolivars, Chavez said. The payments, totaling 24.4 million bolivars, would be funded by dividends from state communications company Cia Anonima Nacional Telefonos Venezuela, or CANTV, he said.

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