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New Venezuelan law takes money, personnel from Caracas mayor

Venezuela's National Assembly has approved a much-anticipated law that essentially gives control of an opposition-run city to an official appointed by President Hugo Chavez — an action the opposition mayor characterized as a continuous "coup d'etat."

Under the new law, expected to be signed by Chavez, Caracas Mayor Antonio Ledezma must transfer the city's municipal budgets, personnel and infrastructure to a political appointee.

"This is the last chapter in the continuous attack against the constitution and popular sovereignty," Ledezma told El Nuevo Herald in a telephone interview Wednesday. "It mocks the decision of voters who elected me mayor on Nov. 23 of last year."

The new legislation – passed late Tuesday by the predominantly pro-Chavez assembly – comes two weeks after lawmakers approved a "special law" that allows for the reorganization of city government and the appointment of a new municipal authority, who will hold the rank of executive vice president and control the Caracas municipal budget, plus 7,000 city employees.

Earlier this month, Chavez named Jacqueline Faria, a vice president of his ruling party, as the new top authority of Venezuela's capital.

The new law will go into effect following its approval by the president, the assembly said in a statement.

Ledezma said he has formally requested that the National Electoral Council convene a referendum to ask voters in Caracas to vote on the two measures approved by lawmakers.

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