In a close run referendum on Sunday, Venezuelans voted 51% 'against' and 49% 'for' constitutional amendments allowing President Chavez to become 'president-for-life' and broadening his presidential powers.
Nicholas Burns, U.S. Under Secretary of State for Political Affairs, said this was "positive news" and "victory for the citizens of Venezuela" as the vote was "a referendum to make Chavez president for life and that's not ever a welcome development in a country that wants to be a democracy."
"The people spoke, and the people spoke for democracy and against unlimited power. And so in that sense it was a victory for the people of Venezuela," Burns said speaking in Singapore.
Venezuela's outspoken president, who is fiercely opposed to U.S. influence in Latin America and who has brought all oil fields under state control, said the proposed changes to the Constitution would return power to the people.
The package of constitutional amendments also included proposals to give the president control over the central bank and foreign currency reserves, extend the presidential term from six to seven years, allow the head of state to censor the media in emergencies, appoint regional and municipal officials and reduce the voting age from eighteen to sixteen years.
Without the reform, Chavez will have to step down in 2013.
The 53-year-old Chavez, who advocates "21st century socialism," repeated on Saturday a threat to stop oil supplies to the United States, if the North American neighbor tried to disrupt the referendum in the Latin American country. Venezuela is the fourth largest oil supplier to the U.S.