Chavez aims to centralize power held by Venezuela's regional leaders

Antonio Ledezma was elected metropolitan mayor of Caracas on an opposition ticket last November.

But if Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez has his way, Ledezma could soon find himself reporting to a specially created vice president for the capital city, appointed by Chavez himself.

The apparent front-runner for the job is none other than the man Ledezma defeated four months ago – Aristobulo Isturiz of the ruling United Socialist Party.

The move forms part of a concerted effort by Chavez to claw back power devolved to Venezuela's regions – an effort that has accelerated since the opposition won control of some important states and cities in November. Earlier this week, navy ships and national guard troops were sent to seize ports and airports from opposition governors, who denounced the regional vice president move as unconstitutional.

"On Nov. 23, the voters elected their mayor. You can't have, on top of that, an official who's not legitimate because he wasn't elected by the people," Maximo Sanchez, chair of the Caracas city council, told the opposition TV channel Globovision.

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