CARACAS, Venezuela (AP) — President Hugo Chavez said Sunday that he has no intention of ceasing his efforts to transform Venezuela into a socialist country, and he expressed confidence that his allies would take the reins of his "Bolivarian Revolution" if he died or decided to step down.
"There's no end here, this is going to continue," said Chavez, referring to the political movement he named after 19th-century independence hero Simon Bolivar.
Chavez, a former paratroop commander who was first elected in 1998, said his close confidants would undoubtedly assume power and continue his efforts to steer Venezuela toward socialism if he were to die or retire from politics.
"I don't fear death," Chavez said during an interview broadcast on the local Televen television channel, adding that he believed a younger generation of revolutionary-minded allies would persevere in Venezuela's ongoing political tug-of-war.
Critics ranging from opposition leaders to representatives of the Roman Catholic Church claim Chavez has become increasingly authoritarian and poses a threat to the South American country's democracy by aspiring to cling to power for decades to come.
Chavez vowed on Sunday to win Venezuela's next presidential election in 2012.
A coalition of opposition parties is just beginning to debate how and when to choose a contender for next year's vote.
"The opposition doesn't have any future," Chavez said during his Sunday television and radio program "Hello President."
Chavez remains Venezuela's most popular politician despite his administration's failure to resolve pressing problems: a severe shortage of housing for the poor, widespread violent crime, economic stagnation, and Latin America's highest inflation rate.