Caracas, Venezuela, September 1, 2006—Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez was welcomed home from his international tour today by a sea of red. Thousands of supporters paraded with him from western Caracas to downtown Plaza O’Leary, where he announced the unleashing of the “Bolivarian Hurricane” and “reinitiated his presidential campaign” for this December’s presidential elections.
“Look at what’s at stake,” said Chavez, “that’s why I invite you to the union, to battle, throughout the country!”
During his multiple hour speech in the afternoon sun, Chavez touched on many issues, including his recent international tour, the United States, Christianity, the electoral campaign, and his plans for his second full term. He specifically highlighted agreements signed between Venezuela and China which among other things, could bring loans worth $1.5 billion to the South American country for the construction of hundreds of thousands of new homes.
Referendum for Indefinite Reelection
In one of the afternoon’s more surprising announcements, Chavez declared that if elected this December, he himself will call for a referendum in early 2010 to ask Venezuela’s voters if they want him to continue in office until 2012, when his second term would expire, and if approved, if they want to change the constitutions to allow for indefinite reelections of the president. Currently the constitution allows only two consecutive six-year terms for the office of president.
“The popular referendum will ask two questions,” said Chavez “Are you in agreement that Hugo Chavez should continue to be President of Venezuela? Yes or no?” In effect, Chavez is proposing to convoke a presidential recall referendum for himself. Recall referenda may be convoked only halfway through an elected official’s term in office, according to the 1999 constitution.
“This time, there will be no need for anyone to collect signatures, I myself will convoke the referendum,” said Chavez. It is not entirely clear how Chavez means this, as a recall referendum can only be convoked with the signatures of 20% of registered voters, according to the Constitution. The President may also convoke a consultative referendum on his own initiative, but a 2003 Supreme Court decision ruled that such referenda cannot be used to ask for a government official to resign.
“If your answer is positive- are you in agreement that Hugo Chavez can be reelected for the next electoral period?” he continued. “I’m going to convoke this for 2010,” he announced “If the majority of the people say yes, then we are going to have to change the constitution to allow indefinite reelections.”
Earlier this year, Chavez suggested that he might consider a referendum on extending reelections, should the opposition boycott this December’s presidential election, as they did last year’s elections for the National Assembly. Today, however, was the first time that he made a definite promise for such a referendum.
Seven Strategic Lines for 2007-2013
During his speech Chavez also announced, more directly than before, the seven strategic lines for his political program in the coming term, should he be reelected.
First, Chavez said that he would push for a new socialist ethic, particularly in reference to the elimination of corruption in the public administration.
Second, the socialist productive model would be expanded. This is a reference to expanding what is known as the “social economy” in Venezuela, such as the cooperatives, the social production enterprises, and the nuclei of endogenous development.
Third, his government plans to promote “revolutionary and protagonist democracy,” so as to provide the people with the greatest amount of power. Recently the government has particularly been promoting the creation of communal councils as a form of direct democracy in Venezuela.
Fourth, “supreme social happiness” would be promoted; a reference to the Bolivarian ideal that the best government is the one that promotes the greatest degree of happiness among its people.
Fifth, a new national geo-politics, which involves the strengthening of the country’s transport infrastructure and decentralizing the country.
Sixth, a new international geo-politics, which involves the promotion of a “pluri-polar” world, against the domination of the United States.
Seventh, Chavez emphasized the need to ensure that Venezuela becomes a global energy power. In other words, that it would increase its production to nearly 6 million barrels per day and has its Orinoco Oil Belt extra-heavy reserves quantified, which would make Venezuela the country with the largest oil reserves in the world.
Chavez also announced that he has received information that the “counter-revolutionaries” are planning another coup d’état, or as he called it, “another April 11.” “The counter-revolution will be defeated,” he declared.