Venezuela’s President Hugo Chavez promised to use a referendum victory that allows his re-election to fight crime and corruption and consolidate socialism in a nation whose oil income has fallen abruptly.
With the global economic crisis overshadowing his larger-than-expected win on Sunday, the anti-US Chavez told his mainly poor supporters that the government would have to wait until next year before launching any new initiatives.
Popular for spending freely on clinics, schools and food hand-outs in city slums and remote villages, Chavez has been in power for 10 years and the referendum vote helps clear the way for him to fulfill his declared goal of ruling for decades.
But the self-styled revolutionary veered from his typical victory speech script of vowing to accelerate his moves to control the economy and to fight US influence in the region.
“If we reinforce what we have already done, then starting next year, we will be in a much better position to open new horizons,” he told flag-waving, red-clad supporters from his palace balcony.
Electoral authorities said 54 per cent of voters approved the constitutional amendment to remove limits on re-election and allow Chavez to stay in office until he is defeated at the ballot box. His current term ends in 2013.