Venezuela's President Hugo Chavez has
again taken the oath of office, following a landslide re-election in
December. The former paratrooper is promising to continue socialist
reforms thast he says are aimed at helping the nation's poor. But VOA's
Brian Wagner reports a new call by Mr. Chavez to nationalize key
businesses is raising concerns about the nation's economic
Venezuela's President Hugo Chavez began a new
six-year term, during a ceremony with newly elected lawmakers at the
Swearing to uphold the nation's constitution, Mr. Chavez said he would
give his life to defend the South American nation and his socialist
Mr. Chavez said he will carry out the mandates of
what he called a marvelous constitution, and the mandates of the
Venezuelan people. He ended the oath
, saying homeland, socialism or death.
Since his landslide re-election, the Venezuelan leader is showing no
sign of backing away from the policies which have sparked criticism that
he is trying to build an autocratic regime.
Recently, Mr. Chavez announced plans for sweeping changes to the
presidency, such as an end to term limits and the power to impose laws
though presidential mandate. He also said he wants to nationalize the
nation's main telephone and electricity companies.
The proposals suggest a more radical approach than before, says Terry
McCoy, professor of Latin American studies and political science at the
University of Florida.
"He is using his victory in the election as a mandate to do that," he
said. "He talks about socialism. In the past, it was kind of a figure of
speech but now he is actually talking about building an economy in which
the state actually owns the means of production."
The latest proposals by Mr. Chavez may affect Venezuela's international
relations. White House spokesman Tony Snow, recently expressed concern.
"Well, nationalization has a long and inglorious history of failure
around the world," he said. "We support the Venezuelan people and think
this is an unhappy day for them."
Relations between the United States and Venezuela have suffered in
recent years. U.S. officials have repeatedly warned about efforts to
restrict the political opposition in Venezuela, and Mr. Chavez has
threatened to cut oil sales to American buyers.
Despite the rhetoric from Caracas, Professor McCoy says such a break in
oil sales is unlikely.
"One has always thought that Chavez would be careful in avoiding a
major break," he said. "I guess that is still what we would expect. This
makes it more difficult, makes the relationship more problematic."
At home, Mr. Chavez has received broad praise for anti-poverty efforts,
such as inflation controls and increased food distribution. Many observers
in Venezuela and abroad will be watching for more details on his latest