Hugo Chavez is calling the Venezuelan people to the polls on the 2nd of December. What is at stake? A series of sixty nine changes to the constitution.
The more significant changes to the constitution include: 1) allowing Chavez to run for re-election indefinitely 2) extend presidential terms from six to seven years 3) create new types of property to be managed by cooperatives and communities and 4) limit the legal working day to six hours a day. The constitutional reforms are directed also at promoting Venezuelan-style socialism. Under a revised article 158, “The state will promote as national politics protagonist participation of the people, transferring power to the people and creating better conditions for construction of a socialist democracy.” The majority of the media has focused on the clause that allows Chavez to run for election indefinitely. The mainstream media calls this a breach of democratic principles and dictatorial; the United States did not have presidential term limits until 1951. Was the U.S. previously a dictatorship?
While monopolies would be banned under article 102, the modification of article 302 is what must be concerning the US government more than anything. The modified article 302 would guarantee state control over the oil industry, closing off any potential loophole that would allow privatisation of this resource; “The State reserves, for reasons of sovereignty, development and the national interest, the activity of exploitation of liquid, solid, and gaseous hydrocarbons as well as the exploitation of goods and services of public interest and strategic character.”
One of the most positive initiatives not mentioned by the mainstream media include the creation of a Social Stability Fund for ‘non-dependent’ or self employed workers such as taxi drivers, fishermen, and artisans, among others, to guarantee them the same fundamental rights as other workers such as retirement pensions, paid vacations and prenatal and postnatal leave entitlements.
In a tactic to defuse attention from the polls, Chavez officially terminated diplomatic relations with Colombia. The two nations are each other's second biggest trading partner after the US, with annual bilateral trade running at more than $4bn. One of his closest allies, Evo Morales, Bolivia’s president is only planning a referendum to pass changes to the constitution that would extend his power.