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Venezuela Votes for Name Change

November 12, 1999

CARACAS, Venezuela (AP) _ The Constitutional Assembly voted Friday to change the country’s name to the Bolivarian Republic of Venezuela in honor of South American independence hero Simon Bolivar.

The assembly voted to include the name change in a proposed new constitution it is writing for Venezuela. The new constitution is to be voted on in a national referendum Dec. 15.

The assembly had previously voted against the name change, saying it would be too costly to change passports, currency and official documents.

But President Hugo Chavez, who idolizes Bolivar and proposed the new name, lobbied assembly members. The assembly is dominated by Chavez supporters.

To minimize costs, the assembly decided that the name change would be implemented only after the current supply of documents and official papers is depleted.

Bolivar, who was born into a wealthy family in Caracas in 1783, is a towering figure in Venezuela and other Latin American nations. He freed Venezuela, Colombia, Ecuador, Peru and Bolivia _ the country named after him _ from Spanish rule.

But his goal of uniting South America eventually failed, and in 1830 he died a poor and hated man. His reputation has since been rehabilitated.

Chavez often quotes Bolivar and has named several of his government programs after him.

The assembly has come under fire for rushing the new constitution and proposing controversial articles regarding abortion, the media, the economy and other issues.

It approved some 400 articles in about three weeks and plans to hold the second and final debate on the entire document in about two days, wrapping up their work this weekend.

They say they are working quickly so that Chavez, who took office in February, can move ahead with a ``peaceful revolution″ aimed at reducing widespread corruption and poverty in the oil-rich South American nation.

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