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    Chavez touts socialism in inauguration  
Time: 2006/9/5 reading: 1658

By IAN JAMES, Associated Press Writer 1 hour, 1 minute ago

CARACAS, Venezuela - Invoking Christ and Castro as his socialist models, President Hugo Chavez began his third term Wednesday by declaring that socialism, not capitalism, is the only way forward for Venezuela and the world.

His first stop: Nicaragua, where he joined leftist ally Daniel Ortega, who returned to power in an inaugural ceremony just hours later. Chavez is now set to remain president until 2013 or longer if he gets his way with a constitutional amendment allowing him to run again.

At the apex of a resurgent Latin American left, Chavez has been emboldened to make more radical changes at home after winning re-election with 63 percent of the vote, his widest margin ever.

His next moves include nationalizing electrical and telecommunications companies, forming a commission to oversee constitutional reforms and asking the National Assembly, now entirely controlled by his supporters, to allow him to enact "revolutionary laws" by presidential decree.

His right hand raised Wednesday, Chavez declared in words reminiscent of Fidel Castro's famous call-to-arms: "Fatherland, socialism or death I swear it." He also alluded to Jesus: "I swear by Christ the greatest socialist in history."

In a speech, he said the central aim of his term will be "to build Venezuelan socialism."

"I don't have the slightest doubt that is the only path to the redemption of our peoples, the salvation of our fatherland," Chavez told lawmakers to applause.

Chavez's re-election capped a series of Latin American presidential votes, and he joined many of his closest allies on Wednesday in Managua. Also on Ortega's guest list were Ecuador's Rafael Correa and Bolivia's Evo Morales. Acting Cuban leader Raul Castro sent a high-level delegation.

Chavez said a commission was being assembled to consider constitutional reforms to be decided in a popular consultation, including one allowing "indefinite re-election" by doing away with presidential term limits that bar him from running again in 2012.

"The important thing is that the people will make the decision, because nothing can be done without that here," Chavez said, dismissing criticism that he is becoming authoritarian or taking orders from Castro.

Chavez did not say how Venezuelans would be consulted on the reforms. But in the past he has mentioned a possible referendum.

Displaying blunt confidence during his speech, Chavez scolded leaders of the Roman Catholic Church and the Organization of American States for criticizing his decision not to renew the license of an opposition-aligned television station.

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