Saturday, January 23, 2010

Venezuela's Chavez could lose control of Congress

Venezuelans returned to the streets today in protests over the country's deteriorating economic picture as this year's parliamentary elections drew nearer. Observers say President Hugo Chavez's hold on Congress could be in danger after devaluation of the currency and in the face of water and power outages caused by a severe drought. An opposition legislature could prevent Chavez from ruling by decree, a tactic he has used to make fundamental socialist-inspired changes in the Venezuelan economy, according to the Reuters international news service. Pro-Chavez marchers also took the streets on Saturday in a show of support for the government's aid programs for Venezuela's poor. "Tremble, you oligarchs -- this is the joy of the patriotic revolution," Chavez told his supporters, Reuters said. "The streets no longer belong to the oligarchs." The pro-Chavez march also was celebrating the 11th year of his presidency, which ushered in years of friction with the United States. Chavez called former U.S. President George W. Bush "the devil" at the United Nations in New York in 2006, no doubt because he was briefly removed from power in 2002 by a coup he blamed on the U.S. Central Intelligence Agency. But Chavez returned to office and has since consolidated government control of the economy, including the state oil company and the judicial system. Chavez gained control of the legislature in 2005 after opposition parties boycotted parliamentary elections, Reuters said.

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