Chavez appeals for unity

Pledging to respect private wealth and fight corruption, Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez has told his opponents they should not fear his left-wing "revolution".

    Chavez: Social reforms for poor, but no plans to harm the rich

    In a television broadcast on Sunday, the populist leader sought to dispel fears among rich and middle-class Venezuelans that he planned to launch a fresh ideological offensive against their status and property.

    "What we want is national unity... this revolution should not frighten anybody," Chavez said during his weekly Hello President TV and radio show. 
       

    While he offered a dialogue to foes who accepted his victory in the 15 August referendum, Chavez added he would ignore opposition leaders who refused to recognise his mandate and urged other Latin American leaders to ostracise them as well. 
        

    Discontent

    Opposition leaders say Chavez won the recall vote through fraud by rigging voting machines, but international observers have found no evidence of cheating.

    International independent monitor, former US president Jimmy Carter, also endorsed the recall vote results.

    A recount commission on Saturday found the results valid and called the vote "transparent".
       
    Venezuela has remained calm through the referendum, but some opposition leaders have called for protests.

    "What we want is national unity... this revolution should not frighten anybody"

    Hugo Chavez,
    Venezuelan president

    This has raised concerns of renewed conflict in the world's fifth largest oil exporter, which has been bitterly divided over Chavez's rule.
       
    First elected in 1998, Chavez won 59% of the recent referendum and will now serve until the 2006 elections.

    Broader policy issues

    "All this stuff about Chavez and his hordes coming to sweep away the rich - it's a lie," he said.

    "We have no plan to hurt you. All your rights are guaranteed, you who have large properties or luxury farms or cars."
       
    But he pledged to intensify social programmes for the poor and proceed with reforms of Venezuela's Supreme Court and judiciary that critics say are squandering the country's oil resources, and seek to consolidate his personal grip on power.
       
    He also vowed to "fight to the death against corruption".

    SOURCE: Reuters


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