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ITF moves Davis Cup round out of Venezuela on security concerns


CARACAS (Reuters) - The International Tennis Federation has decided that Venezuela will not host a Davis Cup match against Peru due to security concerns, Venezuelan authorities said on Thursday.

Venezuela suffers from one of the world's highest rates of violent crime and is experiencing a tense environment of political protests as the opposition seeks a recall referendum on the rule of President Nicolas Maduro.

The Maduro government has said security problems have been exaggerated by the media. The ITF did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

"We're surprised because we have never had negative comments about security," said Luis Contreras, president of the Venezuelan Tennis Federation in a press conference, after exchanging emails with the ITF. "It's an unfair decision from every point of view."

Contreras said he appealed the ITF decision but was unsuccessful.

Venezuela's squad faces Peru between Sept 16 and 18 as both countries seek to return to Americas Group I, which Venezuela dropped out of in 2014. The ITF did not say where the match would be played, Contreras said, adding that it was likely to be in Peru.

Delegations of athletes who have come to Venezuela to compete in international cups or the World Cup qualifiers have had to bring their own medicines and toiletries, which have gone scarce in Venezuela's crisis-stricken economy.

"Now the ITF is a political and economic organization? Why not suspend the Cup in France, which has suffered two attacks? Why is it suspended in Venezuela?" complained Eduardo Alvarez, president of the Venezuelan Olympic Committee.

Alvarez said he suspected the ITF organizers had in fact suspended Venezuela in order to move it to Miami or Aruba as a part of "economic interests." He suggested that the match take place in Cuba, an ally of Venezuela's socialist government.

(Reporting by Daniel Kai; Writing by Brian Ellsworth; Editing by Andrew Hay)

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