Chavez wins key election reform

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The Independent US

The Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez has won a referendum vote that scraps term limits and allows him to stay in power indefinitely if he keeps winning elections.

The self-styled revolutionary this month celebrated a decade in power and says he needs another 10 years to continue his socialist reforms and anti-poverty campaigns.

After winning Sunday's vote, Chavez said he would run for a new six-year term at the next presidential election in 2012.

Here are some facts about the leftist leader:

* Chavez worked as a tank division soldier and paratrooper officer in the army, where he spent years fomenting rebellion. His first bid for power was an abortive coup in 1992. Chavez turned failure to his advantage by demanding a chance to speak live on television in return for calling off the coup. During the broadcast, Chavez famously said he had failed in his mission "for now." The speech launched his political career.

* Despite his often militaristic left-wing rhetoric, Chavez has fostered one of the biggest consumer booms in Venezuelan history. Free spending of burgeoning oil revenues over nearly five years spurred a massive increase in the purchase of luxury automobiles, high-end perfumes and 18-year-old whiskey. Many middle and upper class Venezuelans, who are most likely to oppose him, have benefited handsomely from rapid economic growth and lucrative government contracts.

* Like his Cuban mentor Fidel Castro, Chavez is a huge baseball fan. Years before becoming a staunch anti-American politician he dreamed of playing in the US major leagues. The former pitcher still speaks in baseball metaphors and has received accolades from Venezuelans playing in the United States, such as Magglio Ordonez of the Detroit Tigers.

* The loquacious president is known for cheeky and often vulgar commentary. On Valentine's Day in 2000 he told his wife on live television "Get ready, because tonight I'm going to give it to you." In a broadcast last year he offered a five-minute description of a difficult bout of diarrhea. After losing a referendum in 2007 he described the opposition win as a "shit victory." Working class Venezuelans, who are often forthright with intimacies, find the banter endearing. Critics call it inappropriate for a head of state.

* Chavez, 54, has cultivated a reputation for insulting foreign leaders. He called former US President George W. Bush "the devil" at a United Nations assembly, described German Chancellor Angela Merkel as a political descendant of Adolf Hitler and slammed Colombian President Alvaro Uribe as a "trifling pawn of the (US) empire."

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