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Last Updated: Wednesday, 8 March 2006, 13:16 GMT
Venezuela horse takes a left turn
Venezuelan coat of arms
Galloping in the wrong direction?
Venezuela's legislators have approved proposals by left-wing President Hugo Chavez to make controversial changes to the nation's symbols.

The horse on the coat of arms will now be seen galloping, and facing, to the left rather than the right.

An eighth star will be added to Venezuela's flag to honour the province of Guayana's contribution to independence in the 19th Century.

The opposition has described the changes as a waste of public money.

If the Venezuelan people want to interpret the direction of the horse as a political message, fair enough
Deputy Cilia Flores

But the speaker of the National Assembly, Nicolas Maduro, insisted the reform would not have an economic impact and said it was necessary to repair "historical errors".

The changes should come into effect in the next five years.

Protest

"The horse represents this historical moment in Venezuela. We now have a free and sovereign nation, and we needed to let the horse ride loose," Deputy Cilia Flores told Union Radio.

"If the Venezuelan people want to interpret the direction of the horse as a political message, fair enough."

The coat of arms will also have an African American machete, an indigenous bow and arrow, and typical fruits and flowers added to it.

The opposition has called for a mass protest against the measures on 12 March, National Flag Day.


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