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Chavez Wants To Govern Until 2013

November 6, 1999

CARACAS, Venezuela (AP) _ President Hugo Chavez said Friday he hoped to govern Venezuela until 2013, in part to see through the changes in the country’s constitution.

The announcement was likely to provoke yet more criticism that Chavez is trying to concentrate state power in his own hands.

``If God wants it and the people can bear with it and profoundly understand my message, I want to govern the country for more than ten years,″ Chavez said at a ceremony marking the start of ``The People’s Bank,″ a government program to give small business loans to poor people.

On Thursday the country’s Constitutional Assembly, which is dominated by Chavez supporters and charged with writing a new constitution, voted to allow presidents to serve six-year terms and seek immediate re-election.

The current constitution, written in 1961, limits terms to five years, and bars presidents from seeking re-election until they have been out of office for 10 years.

Chavez, a popular former army paratrooper who led a failed coup in 1992, was elected in December and took office in February. But he likely will have to run again next year after the nation holds a referendum Dec. 15 on the proposed constitution.

He would then start a new term of six years with immediate re-election possible, for a potential total of 13 years in office.

Chavez backers have said the new regulations would put Venezuela in line with other democracies throughout the world.

But critics have said it was a ploy by Chavez to strengthen his grip on power in the oil-rich South American nation.

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