Thu, Dec 04, 2008 - Page 7 News List

Chavez expects to win new referendum on term limits

AGENCIES , CARACAS

Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez said on Tuesday he expects his country will vote in late February on a constitutional amendment letting him stay in office as long as he keeps winning elections.

“In February, at the end of February, I think we should be ready for the referendum ... on the constitutional amendment,” Chavez said during a televised speech.

Chavez lost a similar bid to amend the Constitution last year and will have to leave office in 2013 if he loses the upcoming vote.

He can propose the amendment referendum to the electoral authority either by collecting some 2.5 million signatures supporting it or through a request backed by 30 percent of Congress, dominated by Chavez allies.

Chavez said on Tuesday he has not yet decided which mechanism he will use.

The electoral authority would have to call the referendum 30 days after receiving the proposal.

Chavez launched his referendum campaign this week after regional elections last month in which opposition leaders won key states and the capital of Caracas, although Chavez allies swept most municipalities.

Meanwhile, Russian warships have ended exercises with the navy in Moscow’s first such Caribbean deployment since the Cold War.

Russian TV on Tuesday showed images of a Venezuelan-operated Sukhoi fighter jet swooping low over Russian warships in a simulated air attack.

The exercises concluded with a fireworks display. They had included an air defense exercise and joint actions to spot, pursue and detain an intruding vessel, Russian navy spokesman Captain Igor Dygalo said.

The joint naval exercises featured helicopters dropping special forces soldiers onto a ship as if it had been “seized by terrorists,” a report on state-run Rossiya television said.

The TV report said the Russian squadron left the area.

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