Venezuela's Hugo Chavez celebrates 12 years in power

Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez greeting school children in a classroom on the 12th anniversary as president Mr Chavez says he is confident of re-election in 2012

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Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez has marked his 12th anniversary of coming to power by urging supporters to press ahead with his socialist revolution.

Mr Chavez asked Venezuelans to forgive any "mistakes" he had made in office.

But he said his government had lived up to the hope his first election victory inspired, highlighting achievements in education and poverty reduction.

Mr Chavez, 56, added that he was confident of winning another six-year term in elections in 2012.

He said the electoral campaign had "already begun", and was going to be "a tough one and a good one".

He said the challenges ahead included providing every Venezuelan with a home following last year's devastating floods, and tackling high levels of violent crime.

Criticism

Venezuela's opposition has yet to select a candidate to stand against Mr Chavez in 2012.

But it has grown in confidence after winning around half of the votes in congressional elections last September.

The opposition accuse Mr Chavez of squandering Venezuela's oil wealth and mishandling the economy, causing a long recession and high inflation.

They also say he has failed to control soaring rates of violent crime in Venezuela, which has one of the highest murder rates in the world.

A constitutional reform passed in 2009 allows Mr Chavez to stand for reelection indefinitely.

But the left-wing leader once again dismissed critics who say he is turning Venezuela into a dictatorship.

""I have read a lot of news stories saying that Chavez has been in power 12 years and is trying to cling to power," he said in a televised speech to mark the anniversary.

"But let's keep something in mind. There have been elections here. We have won them, over and over, with complete transparency."

The anniversary was also marked by supporters of Mr Chavez in Cuba, Bolivia, Argentina and other countries in the Americas and Europe.

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