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US Official: Venezuela Referendum 'Fully Democratic'


The United States says Sunday's Venezuelan referendum ending term limits for elected officials took place in a "fully democratic" process.

A U.S. State Department spokesman, Gordon Duguid, told reporters Tuesday there were some troubling reports of intimidation of opponents, but that for the most part, the electoral process was fully consistent with democratic practice.

The spokesman said the U.S. will continue to seek a positive relationship with Venezuela and looks to the government to use its democratic results in a positive manner.

The referendum allows Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez to seek re-election for a third term in 2012. It was his second bid to remove presidential term limits after voters rejected a similar proposal in 2007.

Mr. Chavez says he needs more time to transform Venezuela into a socialist state. Critics say he is becoming a dictator.

More than 16 million people were eligible to cast ballots in Sunday's referendum. Election officials say the turnout was 67 percent, or 11 million.

Official results show that 54 percent supported the measure, while some 46 percent rejected it. The opposition says the president's use of state funds made the campaign unfair.

Mr. Chavez's mentor, former Cuban President Fidel Castro, says the Venezuelan president's victory was "immeasurable." Mr. Chavez was first elected in 1998.

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