News: Politics | Social Movements
Over Hundred Thousand Venezuelans March in Support of Constitutional Reform
Caracas, November 5, 2007 (venezuelanalysis.com)- Over a hundred thousand Venezuleans marched in support of President Chavez and of his constitutional reform on Sunday, which Chavez described as the most important referendum of his presidency.
Marchers, almost all dressed in red - the color of Venezuela's Bolivarian movement - filled the entire 1.3 km (0.8 mi) Bolivar Avenue and spilled into side streets. The demonstration proceeded without incident and culminated with a three hour speech by Chavez. During the 8.5 km (5.3 mi) march, which passed through most of Caracas, rains poured down on marchers for part of the time.
The constitutional reform referendum, which will take place on December 2nd, will be in two parts, where Chavez is urging his supporters to vote "Yes" in both parts of the reform. If passed, the reform would revise 69 articles of Venezuela's 350-article constitution. Sunday's march marked the beginning of the "Yes" campaign.
"Now ‘Yes!' Here begins another great battle to obtain another great victory, but we have to fight in all parts of the country," said Chavez to the cheering crowd on Sunday. "Every year will have a battle. The path of revolution is the path of a thousand battles. We have managed to coincide with the path of a thousand battles the path of a thousand victories," he added.
Chavez also said that this was the most important referendum of his presidency. "I have no doubt that this is the most important of all the referenda that have taken place, including the recall referendum of August 2004 and the one of December 1999 with which the current constitution was approved," said Chavez.
One of the key challenges in this referendum, argued Chavez, is to overcome abstention. He mentioned that in the recall referendum abstention was at 30% and during the approval of the constitution it was at 53% of registered voters. "We have to defeat abstention so that there is no doubt that the great majority of Venezuelans approve of the constitutional reform." What is needed is a "resounding" victory, according to Chavez.
During his speech Chavez warned that the opposition will try to do anything to stop the reform, including destabilizing the country. "I warn he leaders of the opposition, who are going about playing with fire, invoking a military coup and filling the streets with violence - I suggest to them that they forget about this possibility because if they continue on this path they will regret it because by no path will they be able to defeat us."
Referring to opposition students who had rampaged down the same avenue where the pro-reform march was taking place and set fire to several trees and a police car, Chavez warned, "We won't allow these spoiled little brats, these rich kids with a silver spoon in their mouths to go around tearing up the center of Caracas." He asked the city mayor to closely examine permits for marches, in case the violence was their main objective. One of the opposition's main goals, according to Chavez, was a death that they can blame on the government.
The international news channel CNN was another target during Chavez's speech, which he accused of having joined the opposition because it was broadcasting unverified reports about Chavez supporters supposedly killing an anti-Chavez student during a demonstration last week. Police have already arrested the killer, who was hired to assassinate the student due to a dispute within the university that had nothing to do with the constitutional reform protests.
Chavez also said that the reform represents a historic break with the past and would usher in 21st century socialism in Venezuela. "Although there still is much to do, Caracas already has a new face," he said. Also, by the year 2021, when Chavez says the Bolivarian Revolution will be complete, "There will be no favelas [slums], but a socialist and beautiful city."
The reform, which changes 69 out of 350 articles of Venezuela's 1999 constitution, is supposed to bring the country closer to 21st century socialism by deepening grassroots or participatory democracy and by organizing the country's state institutions more efficiently. Also, in one of the more controversial changes, it would extend the president's term of office from six to seven years and eliminate the two consecutive term limit on holding presidential office.According to a recent opinion poll reported by Venezulea's largest circulation paper Últimas Noticias, 46.6% of Venezuelans believe that the reform is necessary, while 35.0% oppose it. Also, 72% of Venezuelans evaluate Chavez's job performance as being good to excellent, versus 25% who evaluate it as being bad to terrible.
Published on Nov 5th 2007 at 8.06pm
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