Crossposted with permission from www.socialistproject.ca/bullet/
Socialist Project | The Bullet
Sunday, 15 February, Venezuelans vote in a referendum on a proposed Constitutional Amendment that will allow for any candidate to stand for the Presidency, or indeed for any elective office, without restriction on the number of terms they may serve. Only the people’s vote will decide whether they are elected and how many terms they serve.
In other words, if President Hugo Chávez, who is already serving his second term under the provisions of the 1999 Constitution, wishes to stand for a third term, he may do so. Equally, the opposition mayor of Greater Caracas, Antonio Ledezma, may stand three or four times if he wants (and if the people vote for him).
This is no different from the practice here in the UK, where Margaret Thatcher won four elections for the Conservatives (although we did not have the privilege of voting for her personally as Prime Minister), and Tony Blair won three times for Labour. It is of course different from the situation in the U.S., where some sixty years ago a limit of two consecutive terms was introduced for the presidency.
But why is there such a fuss about this proposal in Venezuela? Once again, as so many times before in the last ten years, the media are full of stories about Chávez’ dictatorial tendencies or being President for life, and the opposition goes on about “the principle of alternation [alternabilidad].” But they know perfectly well that Chávez will only be re-elected in 2012 if the people vote for him in elections which have been certified time and again as impeccably free and honest, and that the possibility of mid-term recall still exists and will be maintained. And alternation, as the experience here in the UK and in so many “advanced democracies”“ shows, is all too often a neat device to prevent any real change while giving the appearance of choice with a superficial change of personnel.
The real problem is – and everyone knows this, they just don’t want to discuss it – that Chávez represents the continuation of the Bolivarian project, a popular revolution which has transformed Venezuela and inspired similar transformations in several other Latin American countries. And that against Chávez, the opposition will again lose, and lose badly as they have done before.
Hugo Chávez is the people’s candidate, and for the foreseeable future will continue to be. No, he is not a dictator, and of course he is not infallible. He himself has often recognised his failings. But he has demonstrated time and again his commitment to serving the people – the poor, the workers, the excluded – of Venezuela, and they have reaffirmed their confidence in him. If he were to go – and thank God, this is not the case – it is to be hoped that the people would find, indeed create (as they did with Chávez) another leader or leaders. But why substitute a leader of proven ability, indeed one who has grown in stature and maturity with every new stage of the revolutionary process?
In these circumstances, those who talk about “Chavismo without Chávez” are either naïve or ill-intentioned. What is at stake in Venezuela is a fundamental clash of class interests, although one which is being played out as far as possible in peaceful and democratic fashion. The campaign for the Constitutional Amendment to abolish term limits is simply the latest battleground in this contest, and as such, a victory for the “Yes” camp on Sunday 15 February is crucial – and let’s hope the victory is a decisive one! •
Diana Raby is a Research Fellow at the University of Liverpool (UK). Raby’s book Democracy and Revolution: Latin America and Socialism Today was published by Pluto Press in 2006.
Venezuelans Vote to Eliminate Two-Term Limit on All Elected Office 54.4% to 45.6%
February 15th 2009, by Venezuelanalysis.com
At 9:35pm local time, three and a half hours after polls closed and with 94.2% of voted counted, Venezuela’s National Electoral Council announced that Venezuelans had voted 54.4% to 45.6% in favor of a constitutional amendment to eliminate the two-term limit on all elected office.
Chávez supporters celebrated the nearly 9-point victory margin with enthusiasm, as it will allow President Hugo Chávez to run for a third full term in 2012.
Venezuelans Vote Peacefully Over whether to Amend Constitution
by James Suggett and Tamara Pearson
February 15th 2009
Since the trumpets and fireworks woke up Venezuelans at three o’clock this morning to vote in a national referendum on whether to amend the constitution to abolish the two-term limit on all elected offices, the electoral process has been tranquil, democratic, and efficient in nearly every region of Venezuela, with few irregularities reported.
On December 1 President Hugo Chavez called on his party, the United Socialist Party of Venezuela (PSUV) to campaign for the constitutional change, at first just proposing that the limit be withdrawn from the position of president. In January the national assembly approved the change, adding that it be applied to all elected positions, and then put it to a general referendum.
Venezuela: Luis Bilbao — Reasons to be on alert after the referendum victory
By Luis Bilbao, translated by Federico Fuentes
Luis Bilbao is a central participant in the construction of the mass United Socialist Party of Venezuela (PSUV) and in the formation of the Union of South American Nations (UNASUR). He will be a featured guest at the World at a Crossroads conference, to be held in Sydney, Australia, on April 10-12, 2009, organised by the Democratic Socialist Perspective, Resistance and Green Left Weekly. To book your tickets for the conference go to http://www.worldatacrossroads.org/register.
February 14, 2009 — A string of provocations in the days leading up to the constitutional amendment referendum points to the employment of a disturbance plan that could well be followed up with destabilisations attempts after the poll.
Amongst many other things – it would be too tedious to enumerate them all — those that stand out are the violent actions of pro-opposition student groups, the circulation of a counterrevolutionary proclamation amongst Armed Forces officers, the self-attack on a synagogue, the announcement of a trip by Lech Walesa (ex-Polish leader, dependent on the Vatican and the CIA) to coincide with the electoral event and the provocation by Spanish deputy Luis Herrero, from the fascist Popular Party, who on arriving in Caracas as an international observer issued harmful declarations, knowing full well that this would be result in his expulsion by the National Electoral Court.
All this has been accompanied by an orchestrated international media campaign that without any reserve or limit in its distortion of the truth, labours at confusing the real meaning of the amendment in order to present it as a step towards the inauguration of a dictatorship in Venezuela. As only occurs in exceptional moments of danger for imperialist control, the major US press – especially the Washington Post – has put at stake its credibility, lying and falsifying via editorial notes.
Therefore, we must be on alert regarding events on February 15. If the United States succeeds in imposing a situation of violence in the face of a Yes victory, the conflict in Venezuela will extend itself like a trail of gun power across the region. What is impossible to expect from fearful governments — mass mobilisations at the continental scale in defence of the free expression of the Venezuelan majority — is left in the hands of those millions who see in the revolutionary government of Venezuela a lighthouse to orientate Latin American and the Caribbean in a moment of extreme crisis on the world scale.