Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez was sworn in for another six years on Wednesday, promising to press ahead with a sweeping socialist agenda: Fatherland. Socialism or death ÃÂ¢€ I swear it” said Chavez, holding his right hand in the air as he invoked Cuban leader Fidel Castro's famous call to arms.
Chavez, who enjoys widespread popular support, took the oath of office at the National Assembly five weeks after being re-elected with a landslide 63% of the vote. Chavez, who called Jesus Christ "the greatest socialist in history," said "Venezuelan socialism ÃÂ¢€Ã‚Â¦ is the only path to the redemption of our peoples, the salvation of our fatherland". Lawmakers chanted "Viva socialism" during the ceremony, which came two days after Chavez announced plans to nationalize Venezuela's largest telecommunications company, electrical companies and four lucrative oil projects run by foreign companies. However he didn't advance further details of the nationalization projects that have tumbled the Caracas stock market and the local currency. The president, who has called ailing Castro his mentor and U.S. President George W. Bush "the devil", also called for a constitutional amendment to strip the autonomy of the Central Bank and announced that he will be holding a referendum for the people to decide on "indefinite reelection". First elected in 1998, Chavez had the Constitution reformed, re-elected in 2000 for a six year mandate. However the reform established a once only consecutive re-election. The original 1961 constitution only contemplated re-election after a ten year period with mandates of five years. The Venezuelan president has cemented his popularity by using the windfall in oil profits to set up state-funded co-operatives and to fund social programs from subsidized grocery stores to free universities. "We're drafting the indefinite presidential reelection proposal, and if it were rejected by the people, I would be the first to applaud", said Chavez in his speech adding that "they are already accusing me of being a tyrant, following on orders from Fidel (Castro)". The former Army Colonel said he plans to ask the National Assembly, (which he completely dominates), to give him special powers allowing to enact a series of "revolutionary laws" by decree, but hasn't said what the laws would be. Opposition politicians have accused him of trying to steer Venezuela toward Cuban-style socialism. Chavez begun the day by depositing a flower wreath in the National Pantheon before the tomb of the country's national hero, Simon Bolivar and later was sworn in at the National Assembly. This was followed by a military parade at the Fathers of the Country Mall and he later flew to Managua, to the swearing in ceremony of Nicaragua's president Daniel Ortega.