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Saturday, 20 November, 1999, 01:56 GMT
Chavez praises 'advanced' constitution



The Venezuelan president, Hugo Chavez, has described the new constitution drafted by his supporters as one of the most advanced in the world.

Mr Chavez was speaking after the new text was handed over to the electoral authorities for approval in a referendum next month.

Praising it as a constitution for the people of Venezuela, he promised a vigorous campaign to defeat his opponents, who have described it as a first step towards authoritarian rule.

The new constitution includes proposals to extend the president's mandate and allow his re-election.

It would also scrap the senate and strengthen state control over the country's huge oil industry. A BBC correspondent in the region says that with Mr Chavez's popularity ratings at record levels, the document is expected to win wide approval.

The constitution is a key part of radical political reforms promised by Mr Chavez, who swept to power earlier this year promising to overhaul the economy and rid the country of corruption.

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