Thousands rally for Chavez reforms

THURSDAY, NOV. 22, 2007

CARACAS, Venezuela – Tens of thousands of President Hugo Chavez’s supporters filled the streets Wednesday to back his proposed constitutional changes, while anti-government student leaders announced a bold plan to march on the presidential palace.

The demonstrations have grown as a Dec. 2 referendum nears on reforms that, among other changes, would let Chavez run for re-election indefinitely, create new types of property managed by cooperatives and lengthen presidential terms from six to seven years.

The sea of red-clad demonstrators, including students and other government supporters, marched to the Miraflores presidential palace to show their support for the constitutional overhaul, beating drums, waving flags and blowing whistles.

“Here is the demonstration that the students are with the revolution!” Chavez told the crowd. “A solid Venezuelan revolutionary student movement has been born!”

At a separate rally in Caracas, students who have led a street-level challenge to the president announced plans for their own march to the palace on Monday.

The government has maintained a security zone around the palace and has not permitted opposition protests in the area since 2002, when gunfire broke out during a march headed for Miraflores and 19 people were killed. The violence came shortly before Chavez’s brief ouster in a coup. He was restored two days later by military loyalists.


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