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Slowing the revolution

Last year the socialist leader nationalised the country's power, telecommunications, and oil and gas industries as part of his "21st century socialism" agenda, sparking criticism that he was consolidating power like close ally Fidel Castro, the Cuban leader.

 

But with his revolutionary rhetoric toned down on Sunday, Chavez said he will focus on fighting violent crime, corruption and inflation, and will engage the private sector in carrying out the changes.

 

'Biggest enemy' 

 

"Insecurity and corruption, they are inherited evils that we must stop cold and not allow to continue expanding," he said.

 

"If we don't stop them, they become the biggest enemy of our revolution. I call for us to fight more successfully against these scourges."

 

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Chavez lost his bid to have 69 constitutional changes passed by a national referendum in December.

 

The measures were defeated 51 per cent to 49 per cent, representing the first setback at the polls for Chavez since he took office in 1998.

 

Venezuelans have begun questioning the country's economic policies following shortages and soaring prices of staple food.

 

Venezuela also registered a 22.5 per cent annual inflation rate last year, the steepest in Latin America.