Chavez foes wary over calls for reconciliation

CARACAS, Venezuela — Venezuela's opposition reacted warily to a call for conciliation from President Hugo Chavez, saying the socialist leader has spent years in office disparaging them as "bandits" and repeatedly stating that reconciliation was impossible.

Chavez made the call for mutual respect Saturday during a marathon address to the new National Assembly, which includes a strong opposition presence for the first time in years. He also said he was willing to sharply reduce the period of time he has to enact laws by decree, a power that critics say undermines Venezuela's democracy.

"We have a president who spends 365 days a year lashing out at the media, the church, NGOs, fighting with everyone and then he tells us one day that he wants dialogue," said Julio Borges, an opposition lawmaker who sat through the president's 7-hour state-of-the-nation speech.

"Dialogue is necessary for the country, we been asking for it for twelve years," Borges told a news conference.

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