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Video by Nicholas RUSHWORTH

Latest update : 2008-12-01

Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez pushed forward a controversial constitutional reform that would allow him to stay in office as long as he keeps winning elections, just a week after the opposition reclaimed key states in regional elections.

(AFP) Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez on Sunday announced he was seeking a constitutional amendment to allow himself to seek reelection again, saying he hoped to lead the OPEC nation until 2021.
Chavez said he was directing his ruling United Socialist party (PSUV) to seek a "constitutional amendment and reelection of the president of the republic" saying he was "ready (to govern) through 2021."
"I give the PSUV and the Venezuelan people my authorization to begin the debate and take the steps necessary to obtain that constitutional amendment and reelection of the president ... and I am sure that we will get it now," Chavez said at the swearing-in of Caracas' Libertador district's mayor Jorge Rodriguez.
"I am ready, and if I am healthy, God willing, I will be with you until 2019, until 2021," added the 54-year-old Chavez, seeking to propel the oil-rich but poverty-plagued country's institutional socialism to over two decades long.
On November 24 -- almost a year after losing a vote on extending his powers -- Chavez had said "It's the people's right (to vote on the issue). We'll see if the people use this right, and if all the country approves it or not if there is a referendum."
In December 2007, a referendum that sought to declare Venezuela a socialist state and allow unlimited reelection did not prevail, and dealt Chavez his first major defeat at the ballot box.
Just over a week ago Chavez's party scored a string of victories in key local polls, but in a blow to his socialist revolution the opposition won some major power centers.
The results shook up the political landscape of the South American nation, reducing the almost blanket authority of the fiercely anti-liberal Chavez and his party.
"The symbols won by the opposition are more than expected: they won the capital and states representing the economic and political heart of the country," said Luis Vicente Leon from Datanalisis.
Some 45 percent of the population will now be governed by policitians from the opposition, who won in states representing around 70 percent of national economic activity.
But Chavez said at the time that the opposition had suffered a "new, big defeat. They continue overestimating what happened as a victory. That's crazy," Chavez argued.
If "we're applying scientific analysis, the popular revolutionary victory continues growing," Chavez argued.
But Chavez, a friend to communist Cuba and to fellow oil giants Iran and Russia, did lose some "mandate" authority in his quest to abolish term limits to try to win a third six-year term in 2012.
By Sunday, he was scrambling to regain lost ground, in a bid to make his revolution increasingly an institution.

Date created : 2008-12-01