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CARACAS, Venezuela (AP) — Hugo Chavez could have a shot at becoming president for life if voters approve a sweeping overhaul of the constitution Sunday that would give him unchecked power to reshape Venezuela's government, economy and society.
Some polls show Chavez faces considerable resistance in the referendum. His primary impediment seems to be voters like Vanessa Meneses, a 27-year-old single mother who has backed Chavez in past elections but now fears he could become another Fidel Castro.
"Supposedly he wants to make Venezuela like Cuba and stay in power forever. It's scary," Meneses said. "He wants to be the only one like in Cuba, and I don't like it."
Chavez's plan to rewrite 69 articles of the constitution has drawn opponents into the streets over the past month. They have urged citizens to reject changes such as the elimination of presidential term limits and measures to weaken regional governments. Chavez's former defense minister and one party previously allied with him have turned against the president.
Presidential terms are lengthened from six to seven years. Terms limits are eliminated, allowing the president to run for re-election indefinitelyThe president is granted control over the Central Bank, which previously had autonomy.
The president is also granted authority to set monetary policy and administer international reserves.
The president may declare a state of emergency for an unlimited period, as long as "the causes that motivated it remain." During this period various constitutional rights
"may be restricted or suspended temporarily,"
a change that critics warn would let the government detain citizens without charges and censor the news media.
Certain rights are maintained at all times, including the right to legal defense..