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President snubs his opponents

The week's news at a glance.

Caracas

Opposition groups vowed to shut down Venezuela with a general strike after President Hugo Chavez laughed off their call for early elections. The anti-Chavez front includes the South American country’s largest labor union as well as leading business groups, which accuse Chavez of sending the oil-rich nation’s economy into a free fall. Chavez—a populist who touts his friendship with Fidel Castro—survived a coup attempt in April and said neither violence nor political pressure could force him to step down before his term ends in 2007. Besides, he said, the constitution his allies pushed through in 1999 makes no provision for replacing an elected leader. “I’d call early elections just to beat them once more if the constitution permitted it,” Chavez said.

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