resumes quest for indefinite reelection
Petroleumworld.com, Jan 14, 2008
President Hugo Chavez said he was resuming his
quest for the removal of presidential term limits that was thwarted last month
when he lost a referendum on constitutional reform that would have lifted the
two-term limit on his office.
"You know the people have the possibility of launching a political referendum
activity. It's up to you. I already played and lost," Chavez said Saturday
in an inaugural speech for his United Socialist Party of Venezuela (PSUV).
Chavez aims at getting 15 percent of voters to petition for a new referendum
on constitutional reform, as allowed for in the country's constitution.
Chavez, 53, who was elected in 1998 and reelected in 2000 and 2006 -- after a
new constitution drawn up in 1999 renamed the country and allowed for a two-term
presidency, said that, in any case, he would remain in office until February
Criticized for steering Venezuela toward a Cuba-style dictatorship, Chavez said
a referendum call for a constitutional amendment allowing indefinite reelection
could spring from either the people themselves or the National Assembly, "which
can also take the initiative."
After the December 2 referendum was rejected by 50.7 percent of the vote, Chavez
vowed not to push for constitutional reform through the back door of the legislature.
However, on Friday he suggested to lawmakers convening a "confidence vote" referendum
on his current mandate -- putting his office on the line -- but linked to a constitutional
amendment that, if approved, would allow him indefinite reelection.
"Since I have the power to call a referendum, if the opposition doesn't
do it, I will," Chavez said, apparently breaking his vow.
The referendum he would propose, he added, would pose "two questions: 'Do
you agree that Hugo Chavez should continue as president?' and concurrently 'Do
you agree to a small constitutional amendment to allow indefinite reelection?'"
The plebiscite would have voters choose both or neither of the two questions.
Chavez would effectively put his office on the line, but he is counting that
his popularity will lead Venezuelans to accept indefinite presidential reelection
than see him step down.
The December referendum defeat was stinging for the firebrand South American
leader because it represented the first time he had failed at the ballot box.
In nearly nine years ruling Venezuela, Chavez had always emerged from polls with
Chavez had told Venezuelans the constitutional reforms he proposed would see
through his vision of making Venezuela a socialist economy, free from US "imperialism."
He wanted to use it to take over the central bank, gag the media in emergencies
and expropriate property in the name of his socialist vision.
He also wanted to vie for re-election and stay in power "until 2050," when
he would be 95.
AFP 13 0812 GMT 01 08
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