Venezuela’s Empire Collapsing Under Chavez

Hugo Chavez and his cronies love to talk about how the US Empire is coming to an end. They recently came to the realization that their own economies are on the brink of collapse after the fall of oil prices. Chavez has made some big moves in the past few months including a huge deal with Russia to buy weapons… Well now with the cost of oil dropping over 50% of its value a couple of months ago, the Socialist leader should be worried. His programs have not benefited the majority of Venezuelans, but the general public does not hear those stories.

Chavez has threatened to stop selling oil to the US in the recent past, but it turns out that with all of his oil wealth, his government is unable to provide basic electrical services to his own people. He should have been using his new found wealth to improve the infrastructure of his own country instead of give it away to countries that he thought would for a political ally against the US.

How long until the people come to their senses and rebel.

People like Chavez, his US supports and many around the world have been calling and hoping for the US economy to collapse. Well now that the US economy is in trouble they are realizing their own economies hinge on the US

I see the end of the Chavez Empire spiralling out of control in the next few years… 

Despite having some of the world’s largest energy reserves, Venezuela is increasingly struggling to maintain basic electrical service, a growing challenge for leftist President Hugo Chavez.

The OPEC nation has suffered three nationwide blackouts this year, and chronic power shortages have sparked protests from the western Andean highlands to San Felix, a city of mostly poor industrial workers in the sweltering south.

Shoddy electrical service is now one of Venezuelans’ top concerns, according to a recent poll, and may be a factor in elections next month for governors and mayors in which Chavez allies are expected to lose key posts, in part on complaints of poor services.

The problem suggests that Chavez, with his ambitious international alliances and promises to end capitalism, risks alienating supporters by failing to focus on basic issues like electricity, trash collection and law enforcement.

“With so much energy in Venezuela, how can we be without power?” asked Fernando Aponte, 49, whose slum neighborhood of Las Delicias in San Felix spent 15 days without electricity — leading him to block a nearby avenue with burning tires in protest.

Just next door, Carmen Fernandez, 82, who is blind and has a pacemaker, says she has trouble sleepingthrough sultry nights without even a fan to cool her.

Experts say Venezuela for years has skimped billions of dollars in electrical investments, leaving generation 20 percent below the level necessary for a stable power grid and increasing the risk of national outages. Officially Venezuela has a capacity of 22,500 megawatts for a population of 28 million people, but a sizeable proportion is not working, analysts say.

And while Chavez has won praise for investing in health and education, his government has done little to repair local distribution systems that deliver electricity to end users, from barrio residents to business and industries.


Pastora Medina, a legislator representing San Felix and nearby cities suffering chronic power problems, this month tried to bring the issue up in the national Congress in Caracas, but the legislature’s leadership refused to let her speak.

Several hours later, as the legislature discussed a South American integration plan created by Chavez, Congress itself lost power for around 10 minutes.

“Congress wouldn’t listen to me, but God must have,” Medina said with a chuckle as she recounted the incident later at her office in San Felix.

Though it is a key oil exporter, most of Venezuela’s power comes from hydroelectricity generated in dams in the southeast, near Brazil, and sent to the rest of the country. The remainder comes mainly from aging oil-fired plants.

The transimission system is also suffering from underinvestment, which makes it vulnerable to the failures that caused this year’s blackouts.

The government has responded by building dozens of tiny local plants that generate a fraction of a percent of national consumption, a model known as “distributed generation” used in Cuba, where a U.S. embargo impedes electrical development.

But to keep up with demand, Venezuela needed to add 1,000 megawatts of new generation capacity every year for at least the last five years, but instead it has installed only about 350 MW a year.

“We have to reach the most remote villages with the system of distributed generation,” Chavez said in recent speech, inaugurating a generator in a town with deficient power.

His government has also promised to accelerate new generation and boost transmission grid investment.


But critics say these small power plants are political quick fixes that avoid tackling the thorny problems of boosting generation and fixing decrepit distribution systems.

“We need a clear energy policy, because the policy we have is not sustainable,” Andres Matas, a former planning chief for a state power company. “This is a problem for the entire country.”

He said this will require investment in local distribution systems, speeding up generation projects stalled for years by bureaucracy and lifting state-imposed price controls that keep tariffs at about 20 percent of what U.S. residents pay.

It will also require collecting fees from millions of barrio residents who illegally link their homes to the power grid with improvised and dangerous lines — a move not likely to be popular with a government that depends on barrio votes.

Even as he enjoys strong support for his oil-financed social development campaign, polls show Chavez sympathizers are losing patience with the national and local politicians’ inability to tackle bread-and-butter issues.

Chavez last year fired up his supporters with a wave of state takeovers including the nationalization of electricity operations, among them Electricidad de Caracas, which was majority owned by U.S.-based AES Corp.

But his supporters now seem more concerned about deteriorating service than the state ownership.

Chronic power problems take the strongest toll in barrios like those of San Felix — still bastions of Chavez support — where power surges routinely burn out home appliances.

“Our refrigerators have burned out so we can’t shop for the week, we can only shop for one day at a time,” said Nestor Pacheco, 39. “The situation is serious.”

(Reporting by Brian Ellsworth; Editing by Eddie Evans)

Chavez Funding FARC

Well I guess the real reason Hugo Chavez moved troops to it’s border is not that it afraid of invasion, but rather that he was afraid that his support of FARC would be revealled, he what ever happened to those hostages he was getting out? No wonder he was able to “negotiate” their “release”, he is in bed with FARC.

America, wake up, this is where your money goes when you buy Venezuela’s oil.

BOGOTA, Colombia —  Colombia’s police chief said Monday that documents recovered from a slain rebel leader’s computer reveal financial ties between Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez and Colombia’s largest guerrilla group, including a recent message that mentions US$300 million in Venezuelan support for the rebels.

The official, Gen. Oscar Naranjo, didn’t say if there was any indication in the Feb. 14 message that Venezuela actually delivered this money to the rebels.

Another document found in the laptop belonging to slain rebel leader Raul Reyes suggests financial ties between Chavez and the rebels dating back to 1992, Naranjo said. At the time, Chavez was jailed in Venezuela for leading a coup attempt, and was plotting the comeback that eventually led to his election as president in 1998.

“A note recovered from Raul Reyes speaks of how grateful Chavez was for the 100 million pesos (about US$150,000 at the time) that the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia, or FARC, delivered to Chavez when he was in prison,” said Naranjo told a news conference.

Reyes, the FARC’s main spokesman, was among the rebels killed Saturday in a Colombian commando raid on their camp just across the border in Ecuador, infuriating Chavez and his ally, Ecuadorean President Rafael Correa.

Click here for video.

Chavez has called Colombia’s President Alvaro Uribe a “mob boss” and a “liar.” In return the Colombian government has expressed its concern at links between Venezuela and the FARC.

Chavez Threatens US Over Exxon Lawsuit In Britain

Hugo Chavez at it again, trying to get media attention. He is worse than a 5 year old… What ever happened with the hostages he was freeing from Farc????

Now the asshat is threatening to cut of oil supplies to the US if British courts allow Exxon to sue him for illegally seizing their assets when he nationalized the oil industry in Venezuela

Please Chavez, I for one want you to stop selling your oil to the US. You will bankrupt your country and throw it further into ruin, then maybe the people will wake up and realize how much you really care about them…

CARACAS, Venezuela —  President Hugo Chavez on Sunday threatened to cut off oil sales to the United States if Exxon Mobil Corp. wins court judgments to seize billions of dollars in Venezuelan assets.

“If you end up freezing (Venezuelan assets) and it harms us, we’re going to harm you,” Chavez said, directing his words to U.S. President George W. Bush. “Do you know how? We aren’t going to send oil to the United States. Take note, Mr. Bush, Mr. Danger.”

Exxon Mobil has gone after the assets of Venezuela’s state oil company, Petroleos de Venezuela SA, in U.S., British and Dutch courts as it challenges the nationalization of a multibillion dollar (euro) oil project by Chavez’s government last year. A British court has issued an injunction “freezing” as much as $12 billion in assets.

“I speak to the U.S. empire, because that’s the master: continue and you will see that we won’t sent one drop of oil to the empire of the United States,” Chavez said during his weekly radio and television program, “Hello, President.”

“The outlaws of Exxon Mobil will never again rob us,” Chavez said, saying the Irving, Texas-based oil major acts in concert with Washington and is part of corporate “worldwide mafias.”


Chavez has repeatedly threatened to cut off oil shipments to the United States, which is Venezuela’s No. 1 client, if Washington tries to oust him. Chavez’s warnings on Sunday appeared to extend that threat to attempts by oil companies to challenge his government’s nationalization drive in courts internationally.

“If the economic war continues against Venezuela, the price of oil is going to reach $200 (a barrel) and Venezuela will join the economic war,” Chavez said. “And more than one country is willing to accompany us in the economic war.”

Venezuela Inflation Rate Could Hit 30% in 2008

Hugo Chavez’s control of Venezuela’s economy sucks. His pouring of huge amounts of money into social programs is starting to show major signs of backlash. For 2007, Venezuelan’s saw a 22.5% inflation rate and experts are predicting that to hit 30% for 2008.

So much for helping the people of Venezuela, hyperinflation is going to force them become capitalists… oh what a shame for Hugo, oh wait he really is a capitalist at heart…

If he cannot do something soon to fix his economy he may not make it to the next election, which he cannot run in anyways…

But I bet in a few days he will come out with out the Devil George Bush is responsible for the inflation explosion in his country…

Venezuela Vows to Fight High Inflation

CARACAS, Venezuela (AP) — President Hugo Chavez will make curbing double-digit inflation a top priority this year as he aims to slow the highest consumer price increases in Latin America, Venezuela’s new finance minister said on Monday.

The government intends to slash annual inflation by half to 11 percent in 2008, Minister Rafael Isea announced — a target many economists see as unreachable given high government spending.

“We hope to achieve this objective without sacrificing the well-being of the Venezuelan people in any manner,” Isea told a press conference, without disclosing any specific anti-inflationary measures.

Annual inflation soared to 22.5 percent in 2007, according to the Central Bank — the highest official rate in the region and well above Venezuela’s 12 percent target.

As record oil prices drove 8.4 percent economic growth, Chavez pumped billions of dollars into social programs for the poor, driving consumer prices higher despite state-imposed price controls on hundreds of products.

Chavez, who appointed Isea amid other changes to his Cabinet last week, called for renewed efforts for “fighting and finally defeating inflation.”

But some analysts expect inflation to reach 30 percent in 2008, as high oil prices allow Chavez to continue spending, said Pedro Palma, an economist at the IESA business school in Caracas.

“It appears oil prices will continue rising, and that could generate additional revenue for the government that would allow it to maintain an expansive spending policy,” he said, doubting that the government would trim spending.

Other anti-inflationary options, such as adjusting currency exchange restrictions or lifting price controls, could be counterproductive, he said.

Currency controls imposed in 2003 restrict access to U.S. dollars, forcing many businesses to buy imports with black market cash at more than twice the official exchange rate, which is fixed at $1 to 2.15 strong bolivars.

Chavez’s administration launched the new “strong bolivar” currency on Jan. 1, cutting three zeros off previous denominations to boost confidence in the currency. It has consistently denied any plans to devalue.

“The government is going to try to maintain the exchange rate at 2.15 — not just to give the perception of the new currency’s strength, but also because adjusting the rate would mean additional inflationary pressure,” Palma said.

Venezuelans Shutdown Chavez Bid For Absolute Power

The people of Venezuela stunned Hugo Chavez and defiantly voted against his referendum to change their Constitution and let him reelect himselve indefinitely. This power play must come as a shock to him as he has vocally tried to shove into the face of the world, as the liberal media has assisted, that the people want him as President forever. This show of democratic force shows that the people of Venezuela want his rule to end after this term and that they want democracy not his Communist end all.

The liberal media in the past few years has tried to portray any lack of dissent amongst the people and lie about the popularity of this despot leader. Now the truth is known to the world, Chavez’s only course to remain in power will be through police state tactics and then the true colors of Chavez will be known.

In recent weeks college students have rallied across Venezuela to defeat this referendum, Congrats, your efforts have paid off and you have shown the world that when the weak join together in force, they can defeat the all powerful…

The face of the defeated…



CARACAS, Venezuela —  President Hugo Chavez suffered a stunning defeat Monday in a referendum that would have let him run for re-election indefinitely and impose a socialist system in this major U.S. oil provider.

Voters defeated the sweeping measures Sunday by a vote of 51 percent to 49 percent, said Tibisay Lucena, chief of the National Electoral Council, with voter turnout at just 56 percent.

She said that with 88 percent of the votes counted, the trend was irreversible.

Opposition supporters shouted with joy as Lucena announced the results on national television early Monday, their first victory against Chavez after nine years of electoral defeats.

Some broke down in tears. Others began chanting “And now he’s going away!”

“This was a photo finish,” Chavez told reporters at the presidential palace, adding that his respect for the results proves that, unlike past Venezuelan governments, his respects the people’s will.

Exactly a year ago, Chavez won re-election with 63 percent of the vote.

“Don’t feel sad,” Chavez urged supporters, especially given the “microscopic differences” between the “yes” and “no” options in a referendum that opponents feared could have meant a plunge toward dictatorship. /**/

Chavez’s supporters said he would have used the reforms to deepen grass-roots democracy and more equitably spread Venezuela’s oil wealth.

The changes would have created new forms of communal property, let Chavez handpick local leaders under a redrawn political map, permit civil liberties to be suspended under extended states of emergency and allow Chavez to seek re-election indefinitely. Now, Chavez will be barred from running again in 2012.

Other changes would have shortened the workday from eight hours to six, created a social security fund for millions of informal laborers and promoted communal councils where residents decide how to spend government funds. The reforms would also have granted Chavez control over the Central Bank and extended presidential terms from six to seven years.

Chavez was gracious in defeat: “To those who voted against my proposal, I thank them and congratulate them.”

But he also urged calm and restraint.

“I ask all of you to go home, know how to handle your victory,” Chavez said. “You won it. I wouldn’t have wanted that Pyrrhic victory.”

Yet he made it clear he would remain a formidable foe.

Echoing words he spoke when as an army officer he was captured and jailed for leading a failed 1992 coup, he said: “For now, we couldn’t.”

The ever combative Chavez had warned opponents ahead of the vote he would not tolerate attempts to incite violence, and threatened to cut off oil exports to the U.S. if Washington interfered.

All was reported calm during Sunday’s voting but 45 people were detained, most for committing ballot-related crimes like “destroying electoral materials,” said Gen. Jesus Gonzalez, chief of a military command overseeing security.

At a polling station in one politically divided Caracas neighborhood, Chavez supporters shouted “Get out of here!” to opposition backers who stood nearby aiming to monitor the vote count. A few dozen Chavistas rode by on motorcycles with bandanas and hats covering their faces, some throwing firecrackers.

Opponents — including Roman Catholic leaders, press freedom groups, human rights groups and prominent business leaders — fear the reforms would grant Chavez unchecked power and threaten basic rights.

Cecilia Goldberger, a 56-year-old voting in affluent eastern Caracas, said Venezuelans did not really understand how Chavez’s power grab would affect them. She resented pre-dawn, get-out-the-vote tactics by Chavistas, including fireworks and reveille blaring from speakers mounted on cruising trucks.

“I refuse to be treated like cattle and I refuse to be part of a communist regime,” the Israeli-born Goldberger said, adding that she and her businessman husband hope to leave the country.

Chavez, 53, is seen by many as a champion of the poor who has redistributed more oil wealth than any other leader in memory. He says he will stay in power only as long as Venezuelans keep re-electing him.

Tensions have surged in recent weeks as university students led protests and occasionally clashed with police and Chavista groups.

Lucena called the vote “the calmest we’ve had in the last 10 years.”

Now comes the monkey play on how Chavez will try to force these laws down the stomaches of Venezuelans

Venezuelan voters have rejected a sweeping constitutional reform project launched by President Hugo Chavez. In Caracas, VOA’s Brian Wagner reports opposition leaders see the vote as a major blow to the president’s efforts to impose socialist changes.

Venezuelan opposition members celebrate at their headquarters in Caracas, 03 Dec 2007
Venezuelan opposition members celebrate at their headquarters in Caracas, 03 Dec 2007

Election tallies continued past midnight, when officials finally released a count indicating a narrow victory for opponents of the constitutional reform. It was the first election defeat for President Chavez, who helped write the nation’s constitution shortly after taking office in 1999.

In a nationwide address, Mr. Chavez congratulated his adversaries for their victory and said there is a long battle ahead. The president said the reform plan is not dead yet, suggesting he may try again to turn the proposals into law.

Mr. Chavez’s former defense minister, Raul Baduel, who emerged as a chief critic of the plan, congratulated the nation for conducting a peaceful vote. The retired general said the vote showed Venezuela’s people had resisted pressure to enshrine individual desires into the constitution.

General Baduel said the president tried to force the Venezuelan people to accept a reform plan that he proposed, and said he manipulated the people’s feelings in an effort to win its approval. He also warned that Mr. Chavez may use other means, such as executive order, to pass some of the measures, which include ending term limits on the presidency.

Other proposals would abolish the independence of the Central Bank, limit individual rights under states of emergency, and create new forms of community-owned property.

The vote ends a tense campaign period, which included repeated protests by opposition groups and violent clashes with police.

Chavez To Censor Any Opposition To His Dictatoral Vote – Update

Hugo Chavez, during a staged rally, has declared a media censorship of any media that sheds a negative light on his staged referendum vote to give him absolute power over Venezuela…

In addition, if the US government should question the validity of the vote or suggest fraudulant activity, then he plans on cutting off oil exports to the US.

I guess he thinks China will pickup the slack for his economy.

Currently Chavez’s funding comes from the massive oil exports and their overinflated prices. If those oil sales should drop he stands to loose the majority of 90% of Venezuela’s export profit.

As far as I am concerned we should stop letting his oil flow in the US, that would practically cripple the POS. We are still a large buyer of his oil products and are contributing to his power grab daily.

CARACAS, Venezuela (CNN) — President Hugo Chavez on Friday wrapped up his campaign to push through broad constitutional changes with a broadside attack against adversaries at home and abroad — including a threat to cut off oil exports to the United States.

Supporters of President Hugo Chavez rally Friday in Caracas, Venezuela.

Chavez told a crowd gathered in the center of Caracas that if the referendum was approved and the result was questioned — “if the ‘yes’ vote wins on Sunday and the Venezuelan oligarchy, playing the [U.S.] empire’s game, comes with their little stories of fraud” — then he would order oil shipments to the United States halted Monday.

Chavez spoke after tens of thousands, brought on buses from throughout the country, marched down the capital’s principal boulevard to rally support for Sunday’s referendum, which would free Chavez from term-limit restrictions and move the country toward institutionalized socialism.

Friday’s rally acted as a counterpoint to an opposition march down the same streets Thursday that brought out tens of thousands who fear the 69 constitutional changes would serve to undermine basic democratic freedoms.

Chavez, 53, warmed the crowd up by serenading them with holiday “gaitas” and other traditional songs before turning his attention to a litany of enemies and perceived enemies: internal critics, the United States, Spain’s King Juan Carlos, Colombia’s President Alvaro Uribe and domestic and international media.

“We’re not really confronting those peons of imperialism,” Chavez said, alluding to his Venezuelan opponents. “Our true enemy is called the North American empire, and … we’re going to give another knockout to Bush.”

He renewed his harsh criticisms of Juan Carlos and Uribe, with whom he has had recent high-profile disputes, and threatened to take independent Venezuela television network Globovision off the air if it broadcast partial results during the voting. He also threatened to take action against international networks, accusing CNN in particular of overstating the strength of the opposition’s numbers.

“If any international channel comes here to take part in an operation from the imperialist against Venezuela, your reporters will be thrown out of the country, they will not be able to work here,” Chavez said. “People at CNN, listen carefully: This is just a warning.”

At stake in Sunday’s vote is whether the leftist leader should have full authority over the now autonomous Central Bank and with it the nation’s economic policy, changes Chavez has said he needs to move the economy further toward socialism.

The most controversial amendment would do away with term limits, allowing Chavez, who has served almost eight years in power, to hold his post indefinitely as long as he is re-elected.

Chavez, a former paratrooper, said the majority of the country’s 26 million people back him. He has garnered overwhelming support from the country’s poorer neighborhoods, who have benefited from his policies — paid for by skyrocketing oil prices. Oil accounts for roughly 90 percent of the country’s export earnings, according to the CIA World Factbook.

Despite the animosity that Chavez routinely aims at the United States, the two countries remain closely tied economically — the United States is Venezuela’s biggest oil customer and one of the few countries that can refine its low-quality crude. Venezuela accounts for up to 15 percent of U.S. crude imports.


Michelle Malkin adds in a story about Raul Baduel, former defense minister for Chavez. This is quite interesting, it shows those serving under Chavez may not be able to speak out, but they oppose his political agenda…

Also as Cruz notes below, 60% of his overpriced oil goes to the US. Let’s stop the imports from him. His economy will crumble in months… All of this overspending to get votes is financed my his oil income. Take that away. Embargos anyone…

Eye on Venezuela

By Michelle Malkin  •  December 1, 2007 11:47 AM

Every so often, the truth about leftist ideology penetrates the pages of the New York Times. Today, a former Chavismo explains why he parted with Hugo Chavez and exposes the dangers of the Orwellian “reforms” on the ballot this weekend. Raul Baduel writes:

Hugo Chávez and I worked together for many years. I supported him through thick and thin, serving as his defense minister. But now, having recently retired, I find myself with the moral and ethical obligation as a citizen to express my opposition to the changes to the Constitution that President Chávez and the National Assembly have presented for approval by the voters tomorrow.

The proposal, which would abolish presidential term limits and expand presidential powers, is nothing less than an attempt to establish a socialist state in Venezuela. As our Catholic bishops have already made clear, a socialist state is contrary to the beliefs of Simón Bolívar, the South American liberation hero, and it is also contrary to human nature and the Christian view of society, because it grants the state absolute control over the people it governs.

Venezuelan society faces a broad array of problems that have not been addressed in the eight years Mr. Chávez has been in office, even though the present Constitution offers ample room for any decent, honest government to do so. Inflation, threats to personal safety, a scarcity of basic supplies, a housing shortage and dismal education and health care are problems that will not be resolved by approving this so-called reform.

At Babalu Blog, Alberto de la Cruz notes the thug-oc-rat’s threat to cut off its oil supply to the U.S. He jibes: “With 60% of Venezuela’s oil production going to the US, the interminable mouth-flapper could ill afford to take such a financial hit. But threats such as these sure do make provocative headlines. Go ahead, monkey-boy; I double-dog dare you to cut your oil sales by 60%.”

Daniel at Venezuela News and Views has late-breaking developments and poll numbers.

Stay tuned.

College Students Protesting Chavez’s Constitution Changes

Recent protests of Hugo Chavez has shown his reign of power of Venezuelans is not absolute, yet. For the past couple of years, my liberal friends have insisted that everyone in Venezuela supports Hugo Chavez. I have been arguing that is not the case. Well it seems the ability to spread news of of Venezuela has increased, I would imagine because of Internet based technology, and the truth is coming out. The Venezuelan people are not 100% behind Chavez.

Now with the upcoming referendum, I am sure the outcome will be in Hugo’s favor, there is still a fear amongst the people of Venezuela, a fear of Chavez and retribution.

The governments recent violent reactions to college protestors is a prime example of the tolitarian dictatorship Chavez runs, and explains why more people do not speak out. The college age students seem to have a deeper respect for their freedom and are taking the fight to Chavez with the World as their witness.

CARACAS, Venezuela  —  Venezuelan students in gas masks clashed with National Guard soldiers on Wednesday in protests against President Hugo Chavez’s planned reforms to the country’s constitution.Soldiers outside the Metropolitan University in Caracas fired tear gas to disperse the demonstrators and students were seen carrying peers as smoke wafted through the air.

Click here to view photos.

Meanwhile, Chavez took fire from one of his two ex-wives who urged Venezuelans to reject the slate of proposed constitutional changes that would greatly expand executive power.

Urging Venezuelans to vote “no” in Sunday’s referendum on the changes to the nation’s charter, Maria Isabel Rodriguez compared approving the referendum to a “leap into the dark.”

Rodriguez, a journalist, also urged opponents to go to the polls to prevent possible vote-rigging.

“It will be more difficult for fraud to take place if we all vote,” Rodriguez said at a news conference Tuesday. She divorced Chavez in 2004.

Chavez declared Tuesday that the referendum “cannot fail” and that its success will “open the path to a new nation.”

The president’s differences with his ex-wife reflect the polarization across Venezuela, as rallies for and against the constitutional changes are surging. More protests were planned.

Such gatherings have raised tensions ahead of Sunday’s referendum on reforms that would allow Chavez indefinite re-election, increase presidential terms from six to seven years and help the Venezuelan leader establish socialism in Venezuela.

In Caracas on Tuesday, about 300 placard-waving students gathered outside the Catholic University Andres Bello, occupying a highway for four hours and causing rush-hour traffic jams, to urge Venezuelans to vote “no” on Sunday. The students contend the new constitution would give Chavez authoritarian powers.

“We students will keep coming out onto the street to demand freedom and democracy,” said Roberto Diaz, a 21-year old law student at the university. Dozens of police and national guard monitored the demonstration that ended Tuesday evening without incident.

At the same time, about 5,000 mainly female Chavez supporters gathered in a stadium west of Caracas to back the referendum campaign. Participants in the “Women for Yes” rally, many dressed in Chavista red, waved posters with images of Chavez and Cuban leader Fidel Castro.

“The women in this process have so much to gain and nothing to lose,” said Chavez supporter Luzbelia Marin.

In Puerto La Cruz, 150 miles east of Caracas, at least 300 students protesting the referendum clashed with Chavez supporters outside the private Santa Maria University, police said. Some Chavez supporters appeared to have guns, an officer said.

“They are hitting each other and there have been gunshots,” police officer Alexander Gonzalez said by telephone from Puerto La Cruz. He said there were no reports of injuries.

On Monday, a man was shot to death after he tried to cross a protest, near the city of Valencia. Chavez blamed violent elements within the opposition for the killing.

Some polls show Chavez faces considerable resistance in the referendum.

The government cites polls suggesting Chavez has an advantage, while the Caracas polling firm Datanalisis — in a nationwide survey this month — found 49 percent of likely voters opposed Chavez’s reforms and 39 percent were in favor.

While the pollster has predicted some of Chavez’s past victories, its results haven’t always been on-target. A poll released by the firm in June 2004 found that 57 percent of Venezuelans would vote to recall Chavez, but the president handily won the vote two months later.

Chavez himself has suggested that if it loses, his government “would have to enter a period of profound reflection.”

Yet, in a speech at an air base west of Caracas, Chavez was optimistic saying Venezuelans will vote “yes.”