On December 2, by a slim 50.7 percent to 49.3 percent
margin, Venezuelans rejected a slate of sixty-nine
constitutional reforms championed by President Hugo
Chávez. Fiercely debated in Venezuela, the referendum
sparked a spirited discussion among our contributors.
Many of Chávez's proposals–lowering the voting age;
prohibiting discrimination on the basis of sexual
orientation, race or disability; expanding social security;
shortening the workweek; and requiring gender parity in
candidates for elected office–were greatly admired. Other
measures–such as the elimination of term limits on the
presidency and the expansion of executive power to declare
a state of emergency–were less well received.
In many mainstream media outlets, commentators worried
about Chávez's emerging "dictatorship" and cheered the
referendum's defeat as a triumph for democracy. Looking
beyond such rhetoric, many of our contributors have
different interpretations of the most controversial reforms,
although some are critical of not only their substance but
the manner in which they were presented to the
What forces drove the opposition to Chávez's reforms?
What does the referendum's defeat mean for the future of
the Bolivarian revolution? And what did the majority of the
US press get wrong (or right) about the vote in Venezuela?
Our forum contributors, representing a range of
perspectives, tackle these and other questions. They are:
Mark Weisbrot: Progressive Change in Venezuela
Sujatha Fernandes: What Does the 'No' Vote Mean?
Chesa Boudin: A Silver Lining for the Bolivarian Revolution
Elisabeth Young-Bruehl: Behind the Student Movement's Victory
Greg Grandin: Chavismo and Democracy