Monday, May 08, 2006


The 25-year reign of Hugo Chavez?

The corporate press has been all over a speech given by Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez on Friday. Headlines include such claims as "Chavez says he will govern until 2031," "Chavez seeking 25-year term," "'Indefinite' Chávez reign?," "Chavez Proposes Referendum to Stay President Until 2031," and so on. Lost in the headlines was the fact that the writer of the widely circulated AP story didn't even know what the speech said: "It wasn't clear if Chavez, 51, was talking about holding a legally binding vote to eliminate limits on re-election or proposing a plebiscite." Also missing from the headlines was the conditional aspect of Chavez's "proposal" (more of a rhetorical point in a speech than an actual proposal, of course)--the proposed referendum would only take place "if the opposition pulls out of the presidential vote, as it did last year's congressional election."

And why would the opposition pull out of the elections? Because all polls suggest they are going to be trounced in that election, and by pulling out, they will delegitimize the election. Not in the eyes of Venezuelans, of course, but in the eyes of the U.S. (more specifically, the U.S. ruling class), thus providing "justification" for further interference on the part of the U.S. (coups, blockades, invasions). In other words, such an act on the part of the opposition would be borderline treason.

And what did Chavez actually propose, or suggest he might propose, should such a thing happen? You can't find it anywhere in English as far as I can tell, but here it is in Spanish. The relevant paragraph is this one (my translation, with the assistance of PROMT):

The current Bolivarian Constitution of Venezuela, approved in 1999, allows reelection only one time. An eventual referendum might modify this condition.
So Chavez might propose a referendum which would allow him the same freedom that U.S. Senators and Representatives currently enjoy, and which American Presidents enjoyed until 1951. The corporate press takes over from there, moving from reality into demagoguery. And even one of my favorite progressive bloggers fell for it.

P.S.: Not that Chavez is proposing a 25-year term, but what exactly is undemocratic about a 25-year term? Is there something magical about a 4-year term (American Presidents) or 6-year term (U.S. Senators, many Presidents including the Venezuelan President) that makes that "democratic"? How about eight years? Ten? Fifteen? When does a "democratic" term become an "undemocratic" one? Not that I support 25-year terms for anyone, mind you. Just askin'. I do think, by the way, that term limits of any kind are fundamentally undemocratic. People should have the right to choose whomever they want for an office. If that person has been in office for 25 years, but a majority still thinks he or she is the best person for the job, they should have the right to vote for that person.

P.P.S.: What is democratic is to make it far easier to recall an elected representative. If a person proves incompetent, or a crook, or flagrantly goes back on campaign promises, you shouldn't have to wait six years, or four years, or even two years to get that person out of office.

Why stop here? There's more...

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