Chavez Wins Referendum to Stay in Power

By Neal Colgrass,  Newser Staff
Posted Feb 15, 2009 8:49 PM CST
Supporters of Venezuela's President Hugo Chavez celebrate prior to the release of any official results on Sunday's referendum in Caracas, Sunday, Feb. 15, 2009.   (AP Photo/Ariana Cubillos)
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(Newser) – Venezuela's President Hugo Chavez won a key referendum today that will keep him in office for as long as he wins elections, Reuters reports. After years of debate, Chavez supporters voted to abolish term limits that would have ended his rule in 2013. The reported margin of victory, 54% to 46%, was bigger than expected after polls gave Chavez only a slight lead.

The outcome increases support for his anti-US and socialist policies, but the global credit crunch may limit his power to spend oil money on increasing his influence. Still, his splintered opposition suffered a huge loss after making gains in recent ballots. Now, as one pro-Chavez demonstrator said in Craacas, "the future of this country is in the president's hands."