Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez was sworn in Wednesday for a new six-year term that he vows to use to press a radical socialist revolution including nationalizations that have roiled financial markets.
Emboldened by his landslide re-election win, the typically combative anti-U.S. leader has gone on the attack, deciding to strip a private opposition TV channel of its license and take over some major companies owned by foreign investors.
“Fatherland, socialism or death — I take the oath,” Chavez said.
Investors took fright this week at the leftist drive that further consolidates power in the hands of a former coup leader who already controls Congress, the courts and says he has total support in the army and the giant state oil company.
As the United States criticized Chavez’s moves against private property, the stock market lost almost a fifth of its value on Tuesday, debt prices tumbled to a six-week low and the currency changed hands at nearly twice the official rate
Still, buoyed by strong oil revenues and high popularity, the leader, who calls Cuban President Fidel Castro his mentor, is expected to ride out any economic and political storm.
In his political career, the former army officer has survived jail, a coup and a recall referendum.
Chavez wants to lead for years to come
A leading anti-U.S. voice in the world and in the vanguard of a shift to the left in Latin America, Chavez now wants to scrap term limits and lead the OPEC nation for decades.
New Vice President Jorge Rodriguez sought to calm Venezuelans’ nerves over the economic turmoil.
“The stock exchange is more solid than ever. ... It’s nothing,” he told reporters.
Chavez, who rode to Congress for the swearing-in ceremony in an open-top car waving at crowds of supporters, highlighted on Monday his new term’s plans, such as stripping the central bank of its autonomy and taking on special legislative powers.
The opposition has accused Chavez, in power since 1999, of seeking to transform the fourth-biggest oil exporter to the United States into a Cuban-style centralized economy.
“Chavez interprets the election result as giving him a blank check to develop a program that runs against the interests of Venezuela and only serves to benefit himself,” Omar Barboza, a leading opposition official, told Reuters.