Chavez opponents dealt recall blow

Venezuela's electoral authority has rejected an opposition petition requesting a referendum on the rule of President Hugo Chavez.

    The Boss: Hugo Chavez says the opposition tried to topple him unlawfully

    National Elections Council president Francisco Carrasquero

    cited a series of procedural errors in denying the

    petition which was backed by more than three million signatures

    .

    The rejection was a blow to opposition hopes to try to vote

    the populist president out of office this year

    .

    But opposition leaders have already said

    they will make a second nationwide collection of signatures to

    seek a referendum.

    Tensions

    The decision was likely to re-ignite political tensions in

    the oil-rich South American nation, which has been shaken for

    more than a year by fierce political feuding over the rule of

    Chavez

    .

    Before the electoral body's decision, several

    thousand Chavez supporters carrying banners reading "No

    Referendum with Dud Signatures," staged a protest

    in Caracas.

    Chavez, who himself led a botched coup six years before

    winning a landslide election in 1998, is resisting the

    referendum challenge.

    Chavez (R) is a fan of Fidel Castro 

    Leading a noisy campaign by his supporters against the

    vote, he had argued the opposition signatures were riddled

    with forgeries.

    'Revolution'

    They were collected on 2 February at the end of a

    two-month opposition general strike that the president

    said aimed to topple him unlawfully.

    Pilloried by his foes as an authoritarian ruler trying to

    mimic Cuba's communist president, Fidel Castro, Chavez survived

    a brief military coup last year.

    He dismisses his foes as rich

    "oligarchs" who oppose his self-styled "revolution" because it

    threatens their wealth and privileges.

    SOURCE: Reuters


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