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Last Updated: Friday, 2 November 2007, 21:46 GMT
Venezuela assembly passes reforms
Venezuela's national assembly approves the reforms - 2/11/2007
Venezuela's national assembly largely supports President Chavez
Venezuela's national assembly has given its final approval to a package of constitutional reforms that strengthens the powers of President Hugo Chavez.

One of the reforms Venezuelans are to vote on in a December referendum would scrap presidential term limits.

Supporters say the changes will deepen Venezuela's democracy but critics accuse Mr Chavez of a power grab.

Venezuelan troops used tear gas and water cannon on Thursday to disperse opponents of the planned reforms.

The changes were approved by 160 of the 167 members of the pro-Chavez national assembly.

'Communal councils'

The assembly cheered and applauded as a document was signed at the end of the special sitting, says the BBC's James Ingham in Caracas.

The members then made the short walk to the headquarters of the National Electoral Council, which will oversee the referendum on 2 December.

They were flanked by police and soldiers as thousands of government supporters joined them as they delivered their proposals, our correspondent says.

Although Mr Chavez initially proposed amending 33 articles of the constitution, several months of public consultation resulted in changes to 69 articles.

In addition to abolishing presidential term limits, President Chavez is also proposing to bypass legal controls on the executive during a state of emergency, bring in a maximum six-hour working day, cut the voting age from 18 to 16, and increase presidential control over the central bank.

Thousands of local "communal councils" are also to be given more power over what happens in their districts.

The students want a December referendum on the reforms to be postponed, to give voters more time to study the plans.

If the reforms are approved in the referendum, then they will become law.



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