Caracas , August 22 2007, (venezuelanalysis.com) – The first extraordinary session convoked by Venezuela's National Assembly to debate President Hugo Chavez's proposed constitutional amendments gave its initial approval to the proposal yesterday. The proposal is now passed on to a mixed parliamentary commission in preparation for two more parliamentary sessions, where article will be discussed. The National Assembly (AN) has also launched a plan to facilitate a national debate and discussion, including “parliaments of the streets” and a series of activities to insure participation from all sectors of society, including the opposition.
After being approved in a final parliamentary session, which AN president Celia Flores hoped would take place during the first week of November, the reforms are then required to be put to a popular referendum within thirty days and will most likely take place in early December.
The reforms include a proposal which would remove the two term presidency limit, allowing Chavez to stand for reelection in 2012 and extend presidential terms from six to seven years, the original proposal in the 1999 constitution. Opponents of the Chavez government say these changes would lead to 'dictatorship' and that Chavez is attempting to “stay in power for life.”
However, supporters argue that with the latest polls showing a 70% approval rating for Chavez, opposition to reelection is really a tacit recognition that Chavez would win the next election hands down. They also say that if the majority of Venezuelans want Chavez to continue as president after his current term finishes in 2012 then that is their democratic right. Chavez has denied that he wants to stay in power for life and has pointed to other countries such as England, France, and Australia, where there are no limits on reelection.
Cilia Flores said during the extraordinary session yesterday that, “The same people that attacked the Bolivarian Constitution of 1999, are now using the same arguments to attack the reforms proposed by the President,”
Flores also pointed out that Venezuela has had 26 constitutions since 1811, and of these the Bolivarian Constitution of 1999 is the only one whose draft was consulted by the people and was approved in a popular referendum.
Flores continued, “Now is the historical and political moment to make the reforms to deepen the revolutionary process.”
Also included in the proposal is a geopolitical redistribution of power, desginated by Chavez as the “new geometry of power,”
National Assembly Deputy, Carlos Escarrá, spoke in favor of the “new geometry of power” yesterday, saying the changes would enable the people to exercise power. He also said that the creation of federal districts would, for example, be able to deal with management issues related to the lakes of Valencia and Maracaibo, which transcend state borders.
Other aspects of the proposal include removal of the autonomy of the Central Bank of Venezuela, which would allow the government to put more money into social programs and programs of national development, reduction of the work day from eight to six hours, and a redefinition of the military as a “patriotic” and “anti-imperialist” force.