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Chavez Celebrates End to Venezuela Term Limits


President Hugo Chavez is celebrating victory in a referendum to end term limits for elected officials. 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.

President Chavez spoke to thousands of supporters shortly after the release of results showing a clear victory for the reform plan. Mr. Chavez had urged people to support the measure to give him more time in office to carry out his socialist-inspired reforms.

He said that everyone who voted in favor of the measure also voted in favor of socialism.

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.

Opposition leaders have accused the president of backing the reform in an effort to cling to power. They note the reform sets Venezuela apart from all other nations in the hemisphere -- except Cuba - which impose term limits on top elected officials.

Speaking Sunday, President Chavez vowed to use the coming years to rebuild many government institutions, to help them better serve the people.

He said the country needs new institutions staffed by men and women who are honest and committed to public service.

Over the past 10 years, Mr. Chavez has redirected significant portions of government revenue from oil sales into social programs. Scores of Venezuelans say they have benefited from the education, health and job training programs.

The president said his government has made great achievements inside the country, and now he hopes to make Venezuela into an international player.

He said over the next 10 years he will continue strengthening Venezuela to become an international powerhouse.

Sunday's vote outcome was a vindication for Mr. Chavez, who lost a December 2007 poll. Voters rejected a similar proposal on term limits, which was included in a broad package of constitutional reforms.

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