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Venezuelan lawmakers give Chavez sweeping powers

A congress wholly loyal to President Hugo Chavez approved a law Wednesday granting him authority to enact sweeping measures by decree.

Meeting at a downtown plaza in a session that resembled a political rally, lawmakers unanimously approved all four articles of the law by a show of hands.

"Viva President Hugo Chavez, long live socialism!" National Assembly President Cilia Flores said as she proclaimed the law approved. "Fatherland, socialism or death. We will prevail!"

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Venezuela Rejects U.S. Official's Remarks

The Venezuelan government rejected comments by a senior U.S. official who called President Hugo Chavez a threat to democracy, saying they revealed that Washington's overtures for rapprochement were insincere.

John Negroponte, a former director of national intelligence who is designated for the No. 2 position in the U.S. State Department, said Tuesday that Chavez poses a threat to democracies in Latin America.

I do not think he has been a constructive force in the hemisphere," Negroponte, a veteran career diplomat who also served as the ambassador to Honduras and Mexico, testified at his Senate Foreign Relations Committee confirmation hearing.

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Venezuela Poised to Hand Chávez Wide-Ranging Powers

The line forms every day after dawn at the Spanish Consulate, hundreds of people seeking papers permitting them to abandon Venezuela for new lives in Spain. They say they are filled with despair at President Hugo Chávez's growing power, and they appear not to be alone. At other consulates in this capital, long lines form daily.

Two months after Chávez was reelected to another six-year term by an overwhelming margin, Venezuela is experiencing a fundamental shift in its political and economic climate that could remake the country in a way perhaps not seen in Latin America since Fidel Castro took power in Cuba in 1959. On Wednesday, the National Assembly is expected to entrust him with tremendous powers that will allow him to dictate new laws for 18 months to transform the economy, redraw the structure of government and establish a new funding apparatus for Venezuela's huge oil wealth.

Chávez's government announced earlier that it intends to nationalize strategic industries, such as telecommunications and electric utilities, and amend the constitution to end presidential term limits.

The new, more radicalized era is enthralling to the president's supporters. To them, Chávez is keeping the promise he has consistently made over eight years in office -- to reorganize Venezuelan society, redistribute its wealth and position the country as an alternative to U.S. capitalist policies.

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Chávez: Property won't be seized

In his weekly television and radio program, President Hugo Chávez denied that his government would seize the private property of Venezuelans.

President Hugo Chávez denied Sunday that his left-leaning government would seize private property -- such as second homes or expensive cars -- from the wealthy and called on Venezuelans not to fear his accelerated push toward socialism.

''Nobody should allow themselves to be imbued with fear. If anybody should be scared, we should be scared of capitalism, which destroys society, people and the planet,'' said Chávez, speaking during his weekly television and radio program Hello President.

But Chávez also warned political opponents that ''nothing would stop'' the progress of what he calls ''21st-century socialism,'' saying a majority of Venezuelans want to gradually move away from capitalism.

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A New Castro?

Policy analysts and pundits have been predicting for some time that the so-called unipolar moment, in which the United States stands unchallenged as the sole superpower, will soon come to an end. The debacle in Iraq has hastened this reckoning and sharpened the anxieties about America’s role in the world — perhaps especially among those who believe that the United States is a benign hegemon and that the real choice is between a Pax Americana and anarchy. But it is the recent conduct of Hugo Chávez, Venezuela’s firebrand president, that offers the starkest evidence yet of the changed circumstances that American policy makers are starting to confront around the world.

In many ways, Chávez is an unlikely figure to assume the mantle of leadership of this brewing, if slow-burning and incoherent, global revolt. A paratroop officer who instigated a failed coup attempt against the corrupt government of Carlos Andrés Pérez in 1992, Chávez would seem to conform more to the Latin American stereotype of the military man turned populist (Juan Perón of Argentina being the prototypical example) than to that of a world revolutionary à la Fidel Castro.

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Venezuela may ask U.S. envoy to leave

President Hugo Chavez warned Thursday that the U.S. ambassador could be asked to leave the country if he continues ”meddling in Venezuela’s affairs.”

The outspoken Venezuelan leader lashed out after William Brownfield said U.S. companies and investors must receive a fair price for their shares of Venezuela’s largest telephone company when Chavez’s government nationalizes it.

”If you continue meddling in Venezuela’s affairs, first of all, you are violating the Geneva agreements and getting yourself involved in a serious violation and could ... be declared a persona non grata and would have to leave the country,” Chavez said.

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Venezuela to sign deal for poor tourists to travel free to Cuba

The government of President Hugo Chavez plans to sign an agreement with Cuba to send at least 100,000 poor Venezuelans to the communist-led island for no-cost vacations, an official said Wednesday.

Chavez and Cuban Vice President Carlos Lage were expected to sign the deal allowing low-income Venezuelan families to soak up the sun on the Caribbean island during talks in Caracas, Tourism Minister Titina Azuaje said in a statement.

The tourism program would benefit Venezuelans who are involved in newly created communal councils — neighborhood-based groups that resolve local problems — and government-run programs called "missions," which provide education, subsidized food and health care for the poor.

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Chavez Won't Pay Market Value for CANTV

President Hugo Chavez says his government will not pay the market value for Venezuela's largest telecommunications company when it nationalizes CA Nacional Telefonos de Venezuela.

Earlier this month, Chavez announced his plan to take control of the telecommunications company _ partially owned by U.S.-based Verizon Communications Inc.

Speaking during his weekly radio and TV broadcast, Chavez said Sunday the price for the company locally known as CANTV would take into account debts to workers, pensions and other obligations, including a "technological debt" to the state.

"I'll pay when the law dictates and in the form the government decides. I'm going to tell them that CANTV was given away, and that they shouldn't come here saying it must be paid for at the international price," he said.

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Venezuela's Chavez tells U.S. 'Go to hell, gringos!'

President Hugo Chavez told U.S. officials to "Go to hell, gringos!" and called U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice "missy" on his weekly radio and TV show, lashing out at Washington for what he called unacceptable meddling in Venezuelan affairs.

Sunday's comments by the fiery leftist were in response to Washington's criticism of a measure to grant Chavez broad lawmaking powers. The National Assembly, which is controlled by the president's allies, is expected to give final approval this week to an "enabling law" that gives Chavez the authority to pass laws by decree for an 18-month period.

On Friday, U.S. State Department deputy spokesman Tom Casey said Chavez's plans under the law "have caused us some concern."

Chavez rejected Casey's statement in his broadcast, saying: "Go to hell, gringos! Go home!"

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Chavez, The 'Polite' Socialist

Venezuelan Leader Embraces Cooperation. But Will Kinder Approach Benefit Poor?

Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez last week began his third term in office promising to deepen his "Bolivarian revolution" and accelerate his country's march toward "21st-century socialism."

So far Chavez's socialism doesn't look all that different from the 20th-century variety. As he revealed last week, he plans to nationalize strategic industries, eliminate Central Bank autonomy and impose new limitations on private property and free enterprise. He also will move to absorb a television station that has been critical of his government and will bring under state control Venezuela's most important oil fields along the Orinoco River Basin in the northeast.

Not surprisingly, observers in the United States have been roundly critical. "Nationalization has a long and inglorious history of failure around the world," said White House spokesman Tony Snow last week. A New York Times editorial said that "state control is rarely an efficient way to run companies," while The Washington Post concluded that "if the history of socialism is any guide (Venezuelans will have) national impoverishment" to look forward to.

But Chavez didn't choose a socialist model because of its track record. If he means what he says -- and he seems serious enough, to the point of proposing to rename his country the "Socialist Bolivarian Republic of Venezuela"-- he chose it because he is convinced that the alternative capitalist model has made it "impossible to overcome the problems of poverty, misery and inequality."

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Chavez Gets OK to Approve Laws by Decree

Venezuelan lawmakers gave initial approval to a bill granting President Hugo Chavez the power to rule by decree for 18 months so that he can impose sweeping economic, social and political change.

Emboldened by his landslide re-election last month, the leftist leader has called for "revolutionary laws" to accelerate the country's transformation into a full socialist state.

"This process is unstoppable," lawmaker Juan Montenegro Nunez told the National Assembly Thursday. "This process is a historic necessity."

The vote was unanimous as the National Assembly has been entirely filled with Chavez's allies since opposition parties boycotted 2005 elections.

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Victim of His Power Grab

Chavez's Nationalization Disillusions Utility-Owner AES

Dennis W. Bakke remembers Venezuela's President Hugo Chavez as a charming conversationalist. Chavez loved to talk about baseball and closely followed the fortunes of Venezuelan players in the U.S. major leagues.

And when it came time to talk business, Chavez was supportive. Bakke, then chief executive of AES, wanted to know what the populist leader of Venezuela thought about an Arlington power-generation company spending about $1.7 billion to buy a controlling stake in the Caracas electric utility.

"He was very reassuring," Bakke says. On April 28, 2000, after one of their meetings, Bakke and Chavez emerged from the presidential residence La Casona all smiles, according to one newspaper report. Chavez called Bakke a "revolutionary entrepreneur who wanted to invest in Venezuela." Bakke said he had come to Caracas to "learn how to be a revolutionary businessman."

Seven years later, no one at AES is smiling, and there was nothing reassuring about the Jan. 8 announcement by Chavez that he would nationalize the telecommunications and electric utility industries, including the 82 percent AES stake in the Grupo La Electricidad de Caracas (EDC). The minister of mines and energy, Rafael Ramirez, said on Monday that it was a "reasonable" goal to take over EDC by June as part of a nationalization in which at least four utilities could revert to state control.

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Pulling the Plug on Anti-Chavez TV

Venezuela's Decision Not to Renew Station's License Draws Accusations of Censorship

Inside Radio Caracas Television, actors make racy soap operas about love gone bad while an influential television host pillories President Hugo Chavez. Outside the station, none of that sits well with Alberto Carias, a beefy man with a bullhorn whose agitated followers promise that the days of Radio Caracas Television are numbered.

He makes no pretense about who made the decision -- the president, who is poised for sweet revenge against one of his most dogged antagonists, known here by its call letters, RCTV.

"Here they practice yellow journalism, treacherous journalism that goes against the people's rights," Carias told a crowd earlier this week. And then, discussing the entertainment side, he said: "The children are the ones affected for many years by the sex, by the violence of these programs that go against the morality of children, that go against the morality of the Venezuelan people."

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Chavez' Move Against TV Spurs Outcry

The bespectacled talk show host grimaces into the television camera, raises a finger and accuses President Hugo Chavez of using "tropical neo-fascism to trample Venezuelans' rights."

Sweat beads up above Miguel Angel Rodriguez's eyebrows as he berates government officials, calling them liars and challenging them to prove their accusations that he is an "imperialist" pawn of the CIA.

Welcome to Radio Caracas Television, the channel Chavez loves to hate.

As he accelerates his push toward socialism, Chavez has decided that Venezuela's oldest private TV station must go off the air for good when its broadcast license expires on May 28.

"Their days are numbered. Squeal, kick, whatever they do: the license of that fascist channel is gone," Chavez said Saturday. "RCTV's signal will be nationalized for Venezuelans."

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Chavez OKs Private Firms in Oil Projects

President Hugo Chavez said Saturday his government will allow private companies to own minority stakes in lucrative Orinoco River basin oil projects that Venezuela plans to nationalize.

Chavez announced plans earlier this week for the state to take control of the country's largest telecommunications company, its electricity and natural gas sectors and four heavy crude upgrading projects now controlled by some of the world's top oil companies.

It had not been clear whether Chavez intended for the state to have total control of the projects or a majority stake as his government had previously said.

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The Venezuelan nut begins to crack

Hugo Chavez's autocratic model for governing Venezuela was doomed to failure. Over the long term, it is just not possible for one man, however charismatic, to dominate a society and economy as complex as Venezuela's.

And now, with his latest power play, the plan to nationalize Venezuela's telecommunications and electricity industries announced on Monday, that moment may come sooner rather than later. The nationalization is sure to deal a painful blow to Venezuela's oil-dependent economy. And it will alienate many Venezuelans - not only private investors, but also the poor, who have the most to lose from economic decline.

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Venezuela econ min threatens Orinoco oil takeover

Venezuela's new economy minister warned on Thursday the OPEC nation could "nationalize" the multibillion dollar heavy crude projects in the Orinoco oil belt run by U.S. and European companies if talks for the state to take a majority stake in the enterprises break down.

The projects are worth an estimated $33 billion and believed to hold up to 235 billion barrels of tar-like oil.

On Monday, as President Hugo Chavez broadened his nationalization drive to the utilities sector, he also reinforced his offensive against companies developing the oil of the Orinoco Belt in eastern Venezuela, saying their projects had to become state property.

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Venezuela's Chavez Sworn in for 3rd Term

President Hugo Chavez was sworn in for a new six-year term Wednesday, beginning what he has called a stronger push to remake Venezuela as a socialist state.

Chavez took the oath of office at the National Assembly five weeks after a sweeping re-election victory he has said will allow him to pursue more radical changes, including plans to nationalize "strategic" power and telecommunications companies

Raising his right hand, Chavez said: "Fatherland. Socialism or death _ I swear it."

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Chavez's Economic Plans Set Latin Markets Reeling

Financial markets from Buenos Aires to Caracas reeled on Tuesday following Venezuelan President Hugo Ch?vez's announcement that he plans to nationalize some private companies, and the White House warned that it expects U.S.-based corporations to be compensated for any losses.

The U.S. Energy Department also expressed concern after Ch?vez, who has pledged to accelerate his socialist "revolution," said Monday that he would nationalize telephone and electric utility companies and increase state control over four major oil projects in which American and other foreign companies have invested $17 billion.

At the White House, Gordon Johndroe, a spokesman for the National Security Council, said that "if any U.S. companies are affected, we would expect them to be promptly and fairly compensated." He also said that a nationalization plan, if it proved far-reaching, could be harmful to Venezuela.

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Bolivia Leader Lets Venezuela Send Soldiers, Angering Foes

Political opponents of President Evo Morales of Bolivia have in recent days stepped up criticism of the country’s strengthening military relationship with Venezuela after Bolivian officials acknowledged that more than two dozen uniformed members of the Venezuelan military had recently entered the country without congressional approval.

Jorge Quiroga, a former president of Bolivia and a prominent critic of Mr. Morales’s alliance with President Hugo Chávez of Venezuela, accused Mr. Morales in a statement on Saturday of “trampling national sovereignty.”

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Chavez Gets More Power by Nationalizing

As Venezuela embarked on another six years under Hugo Chavez, the president announced plans to nationalize power and telecom companies and make other bold changes that will concentrate more power in his hands.

Chavez, who will be sworn in Wednesday to a third term that runs until 2013, also said he wanted a constitutional amendment to strip the Central Bank of its autonomy and would soon ask the National Assembly, solidly controlled by his allies, to give him greater powers to legislate by presidential decree.

''We're moving toward a socialist republic of Venezuela, and that requires a deep reform of our national constitution,'' Chavez said in a televised address after swearing in his new Cabinet. ''We're heading toward socialism, and nothing and no one can prevent it.''

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Venezuela's Chavez names brother new education minister

President Hugo Chavez on Friday named his brother to be Venezuela's new education minister, the latest appointment in a major Cabinet shake-up.

Adan Chavez had been a special adviser to the Venezuelan leader since last August and was previously the country's ambassador to Cuba. He replaces Aristobulo Isturiz.

President Chavez began his Cabinet overhaul earlier this week, dismissing his vice president and his defense and finance ministers.

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Venezuela's Chavez fires justice min and vice-pres

Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez has fired his justice minister, citing a spate of prison violence, and has replaced Vice President Jose Vicente Rangel without explanation.

There was no change at the Oil Ministry, with Rafael Ramirez continuing to steer energy policy in the fourth-biggest crude exporter to the United States.

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Chávez Plans One Big Venezuela Leftist Party, Led by Him

President Hugo Chávez has begun forging a single Socialist party among his varied supporters, one of his recent efforts to create momentum for far-reaching changes to Venezuela’s political system that analysts say will effectively concentrate greater political power in his hands.

Mr. Chávez formally announced the plan for the single party, called the United Socialist Party of Venezuela, in a speech last month to supporters here. He reminded them of his 23-percentage-point margin of victory when he was re-elected last month to a six-year term.

“Those votes don’t belong to any party.” Mr. Chávez said. “They belong to Chávez and the people.”

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Venezuela-US trade under the microscope

If you have followed the last 12 months of tit-for-tat insults between Venezuela and the US, you could easily be forgiven for assuming that the trade relationship between Venezuela and Washington is similarly fraught.

Nothing could be further from the truth. While President Hugo Chavez launches tirade after tirade at his counterpart in Washington and the White House responds in kind, trade between the two nations is actually going from strength to strength.

A quick glance at the latest figures speaks volumes. Just four years ago commerce - imports and exports - between Venezuela and its business partner in the North was around $20bn a year.

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Nonrenewal of TV License Stokes Debate in Venezuela

CARACAS, Venezuela, Dec. 31 — President Hugo Chávez’s decision not to renew the broadcast license of RCTV, one of this country’s oldest television stations and a frequent critic of his government, has fueled a fierce debate over whether he is stifling dissent in Venezuela as he strengthens his control of the broadcasting industry.

Senior officials in Mr. Chávez’s government moved quickly to...

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