Venezuelans Throng Streets to Back Constitutional Plan

CARACAS, Venezuela -- Tens of thousands of President Hugo Chavez's supporters filled the streets to back his proposed constitutional changes, while anti-government student leaders announced a bold plan to march on the presidential palace.

The demonstrations have grown as a Dec. 2 referendum nears on reforms that, among other changes, would let Chavez run for re-election indefinitely, create new types of property to be managed by cooperatives and lengthen presidential terms from six to seven years.

Wednesday's sea of red-clad demonstrators, including a large number of students and other government supporters, marched to the Miraflores presidential palace to show their support for the constitutional overhaul, beating drums, waving flags and blowing whistles.

"Here is the demonstration that the students are with the revolution," Chavez told the crowd from a stage outside the palace. "A solid Venezuelan revolutionary student movement has been born."

At a separate rally in Caracas, university students that have led a street-level challenge to the president announced plans for their own march to the palace on Monday, for the first time since 2002.

Chavez warned the crowd to watch for trouble.

"We have the pro-imperialist oligarchy desperate," Chavez said. "On alert, everybody in the street. The oligarchy is attempting to destabilize the country, they're trying to generate violence. They aren't going to be able to do this."