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Venezuela's Chavez Marks 12 Years in Power

People pass in front a mural depicting Venezuela's President Hugo Chavez in Caracas, Venezuela, February 2, 2011

Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez has marked his 12th anniversary in power, saying "the battle has begun" for his 2012 re-election.

President Chavez made the comment Wednesday in a broadcast speech in which he listed his accomplishments and apologized for his mistakes.

Mr. Chavez - who is a sharp critic of the United States and ally of communist Cuba - took power in 1999. Three years later, he survived a short-lived coup.

In recent years, the Venezuelan leader has nationalized firms in a number of sectors, including petroleum, cement, communications, electricity and banking. President Chavez has said he wants to improve the lives of the country's poor majority. But, critics say his policies are scaring off investors and will hamper Venezuela's emergence from recession.

Last year, the president's ruling Socialist Party won parliamentary elections as expected, but fell short of a two-thirds majority needed to override all legislative opposition. A short time later, the legislature, which was dominated by Chavez allies, approved measures letting him enact laws by decree.

The law granting the president decree powers also will allow him to enact measures involving land, finances, security and other measures.

Critics described the legislative move as a clear effort to sideline the new Congress, which now has enough opposition members to block actions. The new legislature, with the larger opposition, has now been seated in Venezuela.

Venezuela's new legislature faces a series of problems such as rising inflation and unemployment, as well as an increase in violent crime due in part to the illegal drug trade.

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