December 06, 2008
CARACAS, Venezuela -- Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez urged a crowd of thousands of supporters Saturday to help him pass a proposal to scrap term limits in a national referendum expected for early next year.
Chanting "Chavez Won't Go!" red-clad "Chavistas," as his supporters call themselves, jammed avenues surrounding the presidential palace in downtown Caracas to celebrate the 10th anniversary of Chavez's first election in 1998. Journalists estimated the crowd at about 10,000.
Many waved posters of former paratroop commander, while others wore replicas of the red beret the used when he led a botched 1992 coup attempt as a lieutenant colonel.
"I will govern here as long as God and the people want," Chavez told the crowd. "We are going to celebrate Christmas campaigning."
Chavez's first attempt to abolish presidential term limits failed when voters rejected a package of proposed constitutional changes last year.
The National Assembly, which is controlled by the president's allies, is expected to pass a measure next week approving a new vote, possibly for February. Chavez is currently barred from running again in 2012.
Opposition leader Omar Barboza told reporters Saturday that anti-Chavez parties would unite to defeat the new proposal.
Chavez "is trying to establish a military and authoritarian regime that persecutes all those who think differently from the government," he said. "We will guide society to defeat President Chavez's attempt to remain in power."