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Venezuela's leader has set February 15 to hold a national referendum
Venezuela's leader has set February 15 to hold a national referendum on the country's Constitution allowing the president to be reelected for an infinite number of terms, Venezuela's media reported on Monday.

The country's Constitution allows the president to serve for two 6-year terms in a row. Hugo Chavez, whose present term ends in 2013, wants to change the wording of the Constitution from "the president may be reelected only once" to simply "the president may be reelected."

"Yesterday, the date February 15 appeared in Ultimas Noticias newspaper. The date is already being looked into from a technical point of view," the leader of the Latin American country said during his weekly program Alo Presidente on Sunday.

Chavez, who celebrated 10 years in power on Sunday, said in a televised broadcast, "My heart tells me that we will win a great victory. Two years ago 7.3 million people voted for me and I don't think that any less will vote for me this time."

"We're aiming for 10 million votes," Chavez added. Venezuela has a population of almost 28.5 million.

Chavez has said many times that he would remain, "in power however long God and the people desire." However, the outspoken leader has made no secret of his desire to stay in power to complete his revolution which he says will require 20 years.

Last week, Venezuela's National Assembly passed in the first reading, the bill to change presidential terms in the country. The second and final parliamentary debate will be held on January 5 and then the bill will be passed to the National Assembly which has 30 days to hold a nationwide referendum.

Although a recent poll indicated that some 65% of Venezuelans were against the move on a third term for Chavez, a recent petition passed to the National Assembly gathered some 4.7 million signatures in favor of Constitutional changes.

International observers are skeptical, however, as to whether the latest move by Chavez to hold onto power in the country, which is the fourth-largest supplier of oil to the U.S., will be successful as the global financial crisis starts to squeeze important social programs central to the country's socialist reforms.

With oil sales making up 95% of the Latin American country's state income, the drop in global oil prices to under $40 per barrel will have a serious affect on Venezuela's budget, which is based on oil prices of $60 per barrel.

Venezuela's Energy and Oil Ministry said on Monday that prices for Venezuela's mix of medium-grade and heavy crude ended last week at $32.14 a barrel compared with $64.74 per barrel a year ago.


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