Chavez Begins Preliminary Talks with Ministers

Venezuelan president Hugo Chavez Thursday began preliminary talks with his ministers, state governors and municipal officials as a prelude to "round table" discussions on dealing with the country's problems. Chavez has said he plans to invite representatives from various sectors to take part in discussions about the future of the country.

These discussions will take place at three levels. The first level will debate possible amendments to the country's 1999 constitution. The second level will entail a "National Development Project" spanning the next five years through 2007. The third level would be similar to the second, but would focus on annually fine-tuning the plan. The implementation of this third part of the plan will include - if needed "to lower the level of conflict in the country" - discussions to improve and refocus measures such as a controversial Land Law he decreed in November, Chavez said. The agricultural development rules currently allow the government to decide what is and isn't well-utilized land, and divide out parcels for development regardless of who it belongs to. The moves are part of Chavez's efforts to "reconcile" upon being restored to the presidency two days after he was ousted by the military early last Friday.