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Former Venezuelan Defense Minister Rejects Constitutional Reforms


A former Venezuelan defense minister is opposing proposed changes to the constitution, saying they would amount to a coup d'etat by President Hugo Chavez.

Former Defense Minister Raul Baduel Monday urged voters to reject the changes, which include eliminating presidential term limits and establishing socialist reforms. Venezuelans will vote on the measure in a referendum December second.

The proposals also give authorities sweeping powers if a national emergency is declared, including detention without charges and controls on the news media.

The plan has also been condemned by Venezuela's opposition parties, human rights groups and the Roman Catholic Church.

They accuse Mr. Chavez of attempting to follow in the footsteps of his mentor, Cuban leader Fidel Castro, by trying to stay in power for life through the new constitution.

Baduel was replaced as defense minister in July of this year. In 2002, he led the force that returned Mr. Chavez to power following a short-lived coup.

Some information for this report was provided by AFP and AP.

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