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Venezuelan Officials: Chavez Wins Referendum


Venezuelan electoral officials say President Hugo Chavez has won a referendum on lifting term limits, which would allow him to stay in power as long as he keeps winning elections.

Officials say that with most of the ballots counted, 54 percent of Venezuelans backed the president's proposal.

Election officials have begun tallying the results from electronic voting machines used in Sunday's vote. President Chavez called for the vote, saying he needed more time in office to complete work on his socialist-inspired revolution.

Before the polls closed, trucks carrying loudspeakers circulated in some Caracas neighborhoods, calling on people to vote in favor of the measure. Opposition leaders condemned the acts, saying government supporters were violating a ban on political campaigning on election day.

In the Buena Vista neighborhood of Caracas, Jacquelin Del Hoyo says she voted against the measure. She says she supported Hugo Chavez when he was first elected president in 1998, but that she has been disappointed since then.

Del Hoyo points out that the people already rejected this measure once, and say that now President Chavez is asking voters to change their minds. "No means no," she says.

In December 2007, voters rejected a broad package of reforms, which included a similar proposal to end term limits. Analysts say one reason for the defeat was low voter turnout among traditional government supporters.

Earlier Sunday, retiree Eduardo Trujillo said he backed the measure, but that he was unsure whether he would cast a ballot because he is upset with the tone of politics in Venezuela. He said he supports Mr. Chavez because of his social welfare programs.

Trujillo said that in the past 10 years, the government has increased pension payments and expanded the program to include all retirees.

Vote results are expected late Sunday.

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