Tuesday, July 24, 2007

Chavez: Reform will respect property


Chavez: Reform will respect property
By CHRISTOPHER TOOTHAKER, Associated Press Writer
Sun Jul 22, 2007

President Hugo Chavez assured private property owners their rights will be guaranteed in Venezuela under a pending constitutional reform, as long as proprietors and investors respect the law.

"Our socialism accepts private property," Chavez said in comments published Sunday on the Web site of Union Radio. "It's only that this private property must be within the framework of the constitution."

He did not elaborate, saying only that he would present his proposal to lawmakers in the coming weeks. Few details have emerged from a committee Chavez has appointed to draft the proposed overhaul.

Critics accuse Chavez of steering this oil-rich South American nation toward Cuba-style communism, and many wealthy Venezuelans fear second homes, yachts or other assets could be seized.

Chavez denies copying Havana's economic model, and counters that Venezuela's socialist reforms will merely broaden the concept of ownership.

Speaking during his weekly radio and television program "Hello President" on Sunday, Chavez also announced an initiative to slash the salaries of Venezuela's top public servants.

"I'm going to begin a fight against the mega-salaries," Chavez said, adding that no public servant should make more than $7,000 a month. Most Venezuelans make minimum wage — roughly $250 a month.

Reducing the pay of top government officials has become a popular move in Latin America. The presidents Nicaragua, Bolivia, Peru and Costa Rica recently cut salaries, including their own, in response to widespread criticism.

In his typically wide-ranging television program, Chavez also said Castro recently warned him to take precautions against possible U.S.-backed assassination attempts.

He said the Cuban leader gave him a copy of former CIA Director George Tenet's recently published memoir and told him: "'Read it, Chavez, because that is the most perfect killing machine ever invented and I'm a survivor ... I survived more than 600 (assassination) attempts.'"

Chavez has repeatedly warned that President Bush could order him killed, although U.S. law has forbidden assassination attempts since the 1970s. Washington denies attempting to kill Castro since then.

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