Sunday, October 22, 2006

Chavez for President forever!

Hugo Chavez, president(e) of Venezuela, is goading the opposition not to boycott this year's election by threatening to amend the Constitution so that he can run for president as many times as he likes. claims that the Associated Press misreported this by saying that Chavez was actually seeking a referendum that would make him president until 2031. They have a point and they don't.

They have a point in that the AP's coverage of the announcement is a bit biased. It's hard to dig up the story at this late date, but I did find this copy on a leftist website, which contains the line:

It was not clear if Chavez was talking about holding a legally binding vote to eliminate term limits or proposing a plebiscite.

Technically that's not entirely fair. Chavez was talking about holing a referendum to eliminate term limits.

However, they don't have a point in terms of the overall picture. The term limits were written into the Constitution as a campaign promise when Chavez amended it in 2000. Probably this was a way of soothing angst ahead of his "enabling act" that passed the next year - making him dictator until 2001. In any case, we really have to ask why Chavez put it in the Constitution only to threaten to take it out again 6 years on? More to the point, he himself is president, so the only possible motivation for taking it out, obviously, would be so that he can run again after this next term (which should legally be his final). More to the point, he said this:

"I am going to ask you, all the people, if you agree with Chavez being president until 2031," he said.

In other words, sorry guys, but you'll have to do better than this. The man is on his way to becoming an all-out dictator, many of which do stand for "election" every so often, after all.

My favorite line in the post is this one:

No, such a referendum would not be about "whether he should govern the country for the next 25 years." A referendum would be about whether Chavez would be permitted to run every six years and --in the event that he were to continue winning elections-- serve multiple presidential terms. Pinochet did. I'm sure they're all convinced that Pinochet's rule was legitimate. (Of course, Pinochet had the added virtue of being an effective leader who left his country with a better economy than when he started and didn't embarrass it every time he spoke in public, but who's splitting hairs?)


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