Venezuela rally opposes Chavez plan

Proposed constitution change to allow the president to stay in power indefinitely.

    Saturday's demonstration in Caracas was heavily guarded by police officers [AFP]
    Hundreds of activists marched peacefully in the Venezuelan capital Caracas on Saturday to protest against a proposal for constitutional change by Hugo Chavez, the country's president, which would allow him to stay in power indefinitely.


    The demonstration was heavily guarded by police officers after several violent demonstrations a day earlier resulted in casualties.


    At least 11 people have so far been wounded by bullets at opposition rallies - seven people on Friday and at least four others on Wednesday.


    The leftist Venezuelan leader, popular among his country's many poor, is seeking changes that would extend his term of office and allow him to seek re-election as often as he wants.


    The march filed 3km through streets behind a truck blaring out slogans denouncing the referendum and the recent violence.


    "We all have to unite against violence and against the reform," Freddy Guevara, a student leader, shouted during the march.


    Recent clashes have fuelled concerns that violence could mar the forthcoming referendum to approve the constitutional changes scheduled for December 2.


    Pollsters say Chavez is likely to win the vote.


    The opposition says his "reform efforts" are nothing more than an authoritarian project that would concentrate power in his hands.


    Chavez's supporters say changes such as a reduced work day and expanded social security benefits will benefit the poor.


    Chavez is still popular in Venezuela for spending the nation's surging revenue on social programmes.

    SOURCE: Agencies


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