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Last Updated: Sunday, 22 July 2007, 06:42 GMT 07:42 UK
Chavez 'battalions' hold meetings
By James Ingham
BBC News, Caracas

Hugo Chavez in Moscow, June 2007
Mr Chavez says the activists will drive socialist reforms
Plans by Venezuela's President Hugo Chavez to unite his supporters in a single political party have moved forward with activists' meetings.

Six million people have signed up to become members of the president's United Socialist Party.

Critics worry about the threat to plurality, but organisers say it will give ordinary Venezuelans more chance to shape the future of the country.

Venezuela's parliament is made up only of politicians backing the president.

But they come from a number of different parties.

The opposition in Venezuela boycotted recent elections.

Activist battalions

Hugo Chavez is changing that by creating one united party, which he says will be constructed from the bottom up.

Six million people have volunteered to become activists.

They have been formed into battalions. More than 1,000 of these have now met for the first time.

They will choose representatives who will soon take part in a national congress which will decide how the party will work.

However, all this is creating division within the coalition.

Three key parties have so far refused to dissolve their groups and they have expressed concerns that this new style of politics could lead to one way of thinking.

But Mr Chavez says the battalions will be centres of debate which will drive the socialist revolution.




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