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My 'revolution' will not hurt you, Chavez tells foes
Updated: 2004-08-23 13:09

Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez told his opponents on Sunday they should not fear his left-wing "revolution" after his referendum win and pledged to respect private wealth and fight corruption.

While he offered a dialogue to foes who accepted his victory in the Aug. 15 recall poll, Chavez said he would ignore opposition leaders who refused to recognize his mandate and urged other Latin American leaders to ostracize them as well.

In a television broadcast, 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.

Jorge Rodriguez, member of the National Electoral Council of Venezuela speaks during a press conference. An audit of last Sunday's recall vote in Venezuela, which favored keeping President Hugo Chavez in office, found no evidence of fraud. [AFP/File]
"What we want is national unity ... this revolution should not frighten anybody," Chavez said during his weekly "Hello President" TV and radio show.

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

Venezuela has remained calm through the referendum, but some opposition leaders have called for protests. This has raised concerns of renewed conflict in the world's No. 5 oil exporter, which has been bitterly divided over Chavez's rule.

First elected in 1998, Chavez won 59 percent of the referendum vote and will now serve until 2006 elections.

"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 programs 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."


Chavez said he would no longer deal with the opposition Democratic Coordinator coalition, which promoted the referendum challenge and now refuses to accept his win.

"We cannot talk with people who don't recognize this result or the constitution ... if they want to start a rebellion in the mountains, then let them," said Chavez, who himself led a failed coup bid six years before winning 1998 elections.

He suggested these opposition leaders fly "to Mars or Venus" to find support for their fraud charges.

Chavez said the Democratic Coordinator group, which he accuses of backing a short-lived 2002 coup, should face sanctions in the Organization of American States for what he called their anti-democratic attitude.

He added he would lobby other South American presidents to cut all contacts with the opposition coalition.

Chavez also appointed Jesse Chacon, a close political ally and former military colleague, as interior minister.

Chacon replaced Gen. Lucas Rincon, who was made interior minister early last year when Chavez was battling a grueling opposition strike.

Chavez also named Andres Izarra, a journalist who was press attache at Venezuela's embassy in Washington, as information minister.

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