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Venezuela holds referendum on president term limits

world Updated: Feb 15, 2009 22:13 IST
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Venezuelans are voting on Sunday in a referendum that would allow President Hugo Chavez to stay in power for as long as he keeps winning elections.

Chavez, a former army paratrooper who styles himself the builder of "21st-century socialism", wants to remove presidential term limits from the country's constitution.

He has been in office for the past 10 years and a victory in the referendum would help him seek another term in 2012.

More than 50 percent of voters rejected a similar proposal as part of a package of constitutional amendments in a referendum in December 2007

The Venezuelan leader, who swore that he would put oil to work to realise Simon Bolivar's dream of consolidating the countries of Latin America, has pledged to continue "deepening the socialist revolution" and "fighting against poverty, corruption and crime".

The 54-year-old leftist leader, who declared Feb 2 a national holiday to celebrate 10 years as Venezuela's president, said the country had entered a third phase of his "Bolivarian Revolution", stressing that the previous phases of the revolution - the first in 1999-2006 and the second in 2007-2009 - had been successfully implemented.

"These 10 years could be characterised by three words: revolution, independence and socialism," Chavez said. "The second phase is coming to its end and the third cycle of the Bolivarian Revolution in Venezuela is beginning."

Chavez said the new phase could last for another decade until Feb 2019.