Venezuelan Voters Decide If Chavez Can Run Again Venezuelans go to the polls Sunday to vote on a referendum that, if approved, would give President Hugo Chavez the power to run for office again in four years and stay in power until at least 2019.
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Venezuelan Voters Decide If Chavez Can Run Again

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Venezuelan Voters Decide If Chavez Can Run Again

Venezuelan Voters Decide If Chavez Can Run Again

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LIANE HANSEN, Host:

NPR's Juan Forero reports from Caracas.

(SOUNDBITE OF CROWD CHEERING)

HUGO CHAVEZ: (Singing in Spanish)

JUAN FORERO: At a huge downtown rally, President Chavez is the singer and star.

(SOUNDBITE OF APPLAUSE)

CHAVEZ: (Spanish spoken)

FORERO: He tells the throng he sings for them because they are everything in Venezuela, and they respond with the trademark jingle...

(SOUNDBITE OF CHANTING)

CHAVEZ: Oh, ah, Chavez no se va. Oh, ah, Chavez no se va. Oh, ah, Chavez no se va.

FORERO: Unidentified People: (Spanish spoken)

(SOUNDBITE OF CHANTING)

FORERO: Unidentified People: (Spanish spoken)

(SOUNDBITE OF CHANTING)

FORERO: It refers to a similar referendum just 14 months ago when voters turned back a constitutional reform that would've ended term limits. Sarah Catalan(ph) voted for Chavez in 1998.

SARAH CATALAN: (Spanish spoken)

FORERO: Critics say Chavez uses state funds for campaigning and busses state workers to rallies. Chavez's daily speeches are broadcast live on numerous state television stations. Teodoro Petkoff is a leftist newspaper editor who opposes Chavez.

TEODORO PETKOFF: (Spanish spoken)

FORERO: He says the battle is against not only the government's plentiful oil- generated war chest, but also against the use of state institutions in the campaign. Chavez's supporters, though, overlook such accusations. Fanny Marina(ph) is a hairdresser who is among those who rallied for the president on a recent day.

FANNY MARINA: (Spanish spoken)

FORERO: She says Chavez was sent by God to help Venezuela and the world, and that he's so good she can't imagine him ever leaving. The president apparently believes the same. Chavez says he considered retiring, but then he saw the dangers his revolution faced and decided he couldn't.

CHAVEZ: Unidentified People: Oh, ah, Chavez no se va.

(SOUNDBITE OF CHANTING)

FORERO: Juan Forero, NPR News, Caracas, Venezuela.

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