Venezuela's central bank defies Chavez

Venezuela's central bank is examining ways in which it can deflect controversial demands from president Hugo Chavez to hand over $1bn of its foreign reserves for what could be a public spending spree.

Mr Chavez threatened to intervene in the central bank's affairs last week or challenge it in court if it did not give his government $1bn of its international reserves, currently standing at a record $21.5bn.

Mr Chavez says the $1bn would be used for credits to help farmers and to boost agricultur