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Last Updated: Friday, 7 December 2007, 02:56 GMT
Chavez 'will step down in 2013'
Hugo Chavez
Chavez vowed to work tirelessly until his term expires
Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez has said he will step down when his current term expires in 2013, following the defeat of his reform proposals.

Last weekend, Venezuelans narrowly rejected the president's plans to reform the constitution.

They included a proposal to allow him to run for re-election indefinitely.

Mr Chavez has said the country voted no because it was blackmailed by threats of violence and said he would try again to push through reforms.

Venezuelans voted 51% to 49% against the proposals in Sunday's national referendum.

The result was a blow to Mr Chavez, who had previously secured convincing victories in elections and referendums, including his triumph last December in the presidential poll with 63% of the vote.

In his first public statement that he would step down as planned, Mr Chavez said: "The reforms did not get passed, so I will have to leave power in 2013.

"I will work around the clock; until the very last day I have left here, I will work relentlessly."

Renewed attempts

Mr Chavez made the comments at a ceremony for graduates of a scheme called Mission Che Guevara, a state-funded adult education programme, named after the left-wing Argentine-born revolutionary.

The BBC's James Ingham in Caracas says the graduates are big fans of the president and so cheered loudly when he told them the opposition would never come back to power.

Mr Chavez says he will launch a second attempt to get his reforms through, possibly involving his supporters more in the process.

A petition signed by 15% of voters could demand that a new referendum be looked at.

Mr Chavez could also change some laws by decree or set up a constituent assembly elected by voters which would write a new constitution.

But opponents have received a boost from their success at the polls, our correspondent says, and they will be seeking to influence policy over the next few years with their sights on power when Mr Chavez steps down in 2013.

In another development, Mr Chavez's former wife, Marisabel Rodriguez, has said she will propose a constitutional amendment to shorten presidential terms from six to four years.

She said two terms of four years each was enough time in power.

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