CARACAS -- Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez enacted the constitutional amendment eliminating term limits for elected officials and promised citizens "more effectiveness" from the government he hopes to lead "at least until 2019."
At an improvised Cabinet meeting held outdoors in a plaza on Caracas' east side, Chavez signed the amendment that will allow him to run for another six-year term in 2012.
"I enact, with all my heart and my commitment to the people, and swearing to the people that I will not fail them, the first amendment of the Bolivarian Constitution. Long live the people!" Chavez said upon signing the official document at Thursday's event, which radio and television stations were obliged to broadcast live.
"I'm ready to continue commanding the revolution from 2009 at least until 2019, if the people want me to," the leftist president said, having promoted the amendment with the argument that only his permanence in power could guarantee the survival of the process of change that he has led since February 1999.
A fiery critic of U.S. foreign policy, Chavez was first elected in 1998 and has since won two more elections and defeated a recall attempt, each time by a wide margin.
Government critics said prior to Sunday's plebiscite that allowing unlimited re-election runs contrary to the principle of pluralism enshrined in the 1998 constitution.
Supporters of the change argued that nothing could be more democratic than letting voters decide how long the president and other officeholders should remain in their posts.
Venezuelan voters approved the end of term limits by 54.86 percent to 45.13 percent, an outcome Chavez described Thursday as a "win by a knockout."
Beginning with the approval of the amendment "a new cycle of the revolution has begun," which must be characterized by a more efficient government capable of resolving "pending problems" such as crime and the lack of housing, he said.
Although he again expressed his confidence that he will defeat any opposition candidate in 2012, he acknowledged that "we have to win the first game during these four years" left in his current mandate.
"More and better government, we're going to govern with greater efficiency...I'm going to ask 100 times more from our work," the head of state and promoter of "socialism of the 21st century" said.
He said that the citizenry, in approving the amendment scrapping term limits, showed trust in the revolution, and for that reason considered that the government "has to deserve that trust."
One of the opposition's main criticisms is the government's supposed idleness in dealing with crime, which surveys show is the issue that concerns Venezuelans the most.
Venezuela has an average of 10,114 violent deaths a year, according to a police report leaked to the press last month. EFE