Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez is facing his toughest challenge in years as voters decide whether to approve constitutional changes in a referendum.BBC:
The raft of reforms includes allowing abolishing presidential term limits and ending the Central Bank's autonomy.
Mr Chavez says the proposed changes would return power to the people, but opponents accuse him of a power grab.
On Saturday, President Chavez repeated a threat to stop oil supplies to the US if it tried to disrupt the ballot.
Mr Chavez has warned that his opponents could try to sabotage the vote, with backing from Washington, through violent protests.
At a news conference, he said: "In the case of an aggression by the US government, we wouldn't send any more oil to that country. Forget about our oil."
Voting has begun in Russia's general election, with citizens in the far east of the country going to the polls long before they open in the west.
Eleven parties are competing for places in the lower house, the Duma - though it is not clear how many will win the 7% needed to qualify for seats.
Opposition parties have accused the government of stifling their campaigns and of intimidation.
Independent monitors say their attempts to observe the poll have been hampered.
The Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe (OSCE) has abandoned its plans to send a big team of election observers to Russia after accusing the Russian government of imposing unacceptable restrictions and of deliberately delaying the issuing of visas. Russia has denied the claims.
- CHAVEZ AND PUTIN ARE TWO THUGS EMBOLDENED BY THEIR OIL WEALTH, AND RUTHLESSLY SEEKING POWER.
- THEY ARE DANGEROUS ALONE, AND EACH AIDING IRAN, TOO.
- WE NEED TO CONFRONT THEM BOTH.
- HERE'S AN ARTICLE FROM KAY 2001 - BEFORE 9/11 - WHICH DESCRIBED THE PUTIN-CHAVEZ AXIS - EXCERPT:
(UPI) - Russian President Vladimir Putin and leftist Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez declared Monday that they would form a strategic alliance against U.S. dominance as the world's only superpower.
Putin and Chavez, who had extensive talks, discovered that they had much in common. Chavez declared to the media that they were now "good friends."
The two have somewhat similar backgrounds. Putin, 47, is a former KGB officer and ex-leader of the FSB secret service who is busy restoring federal control over independent-minded Russian regions and is widely seen as a much more authoritarian ruler than predecessor Boris Yeltsin. The 46-year-old Chavez is a former paratrooper who led a failed coup before being elected president and has threatened to rule Venezuela by decree under a proposed state of emergency.
Putin praised the Venezuelan as "a young and energetic leader of the new generation of politicians who understand the national interests of their countries and pay great attention to the development of" bilateral relations.
Chavez responded by declaring that "a strategic alliance, has begun, a joint path."
- AND ONE FROM 2006 - EXCERPT:
Venezuelan President Hugo Chávez is in Russia to do some large-scale weapons buying. Later this week his journey will take him on to other destinations, including Iran. Unsurprisingly, the controversial president’s trip is being watched with great interest in Washington. Mr Chavez and Mr PutinThe question being asked as Mr Chávez visits Russia is what does Venezuela want with all these weapons? This week, the Venezuelan head of state is expected to place orders for around one billion dollars worth of Russian military hardware, including 24 fighter planes and 30 helicopters. His country also wants to acquire licenses so it can manufacture Russian weapons at home. Russia, on the other hand, sees these transactions with Venezuela as a way of gaining access to the Latin American weapons market.WE IGNORE THESE TWO TYRANNICAL THUGS AT OUR PERIL - AND THAT OF THE ENTIRE FREE WORLD.