The news coming from (ChattahBox) — President Hugo Chavez is celebrating victory in a referendum to end term limits for elected officials.
Without a constitutional change he would have had to stand down when his term expires in 2013; instead he had secured the right to stand again for office in the next elections due in 2012, and elections beyond.
Thousands of people gathered outside Miraflores Palace, where the former paratroop commander appeared on a balcony. “Those who voted ‘yes’ today voted for socialism, for revolution,” Mr Chavez said.
He called the victory – which allows all public officials to run for re-election indefinitely – a mandate to speed his transformation of Venezuela into a socialist state.
The president’s proposal passed with 54 percent of votes cast. The measure will allow Mr. Chavez to stay in power as long as he keeps winning elections.
Mr. Chavez dedicated the vote result to all of Venezuela’s children, saying it was a victory for the future and for socialism.
The reform allows Mr. Chavez to seek re-election for a third term in a planned 2012 vote. The president has said he hopes to serve at least until 2018, but it is unclear if wants to remain in power beyond that date.
Opponents accepted the defeat but said Mr Chavez is becoming a dictator. Chavez enjoyed record prices for oil in recent years and exploited the proceeds to develop a solid national political base and growing international clout as a regional leader.
In the coming years, however, he will have to deal with a severe economic crisis, with oil revenues now down sharply from record highs, and perhaps with the erosion of confidence as unfulfilled expectations mount.