Merida, September 4, 2007 (venezuelanalysis.com) – Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez’s proposed Constitutional Reform will pass through a second round of discussions this week in the constitutional commission of the National Assembly after it was approved unanimously in the first round of discussions. Meanwhile, opposition parties said Monday that they are building a united front to oppose the proposed reforms. Opposition student groups are also planning to take to the streets this week in Caracas.
As established in the Venezuelan constitution, proposed amendments must pass though three rounds of discussion and debate in the National Assembly before going to a vote in a national referendum. The special commission of the National Assembly will begin the second round of discussions this week and will last until next Thursday when it will set the date for a third discussion before the entire assembly.
As President of the National Assembly Cilia Flores explained last week, the first round of discussions had the purpose of a general reading of the reform. The second round will be the analysis of the chapters, while the third round of discussions will be a discussion article by article.
Flores said they expect the discussions to be finished by November and that the reform proposal should be ready to go before a national vote by this December. The National Electoral Council (CNE) has already begun preparations to get ready for the organization of the national referendum in December.
The Venezuelan opposition parties, on the other hand, announced in a press conference yesterday that they are looking to build an alliance in order to oppose the reform. The parties of the opposition have been divided in their strategies against President Chavez' proposal with some rejecting the entire proposal and others advocating that the proposed changes be voted on separately.
The parties MAS (Movement towards Socialism) and Primero Justicia (Justice First) have both expressed that the opposition should focus on obtaining an article by article vote on the reform. This way, they argue, the Venezuelan people can choose which aspects of the proposal should be approved, and which shouldn't.
But secretary general of opposition party Acción Democrática (Democratic Action) Henry Ramos Allup stated that the position of these sectors of the opposition is "truly unexplainable," since, according to Ramos Allup, the proposed reform does not have any positive aspects.
"The more I read it and review it, forward and backward, all over, I don't see absolutely anything that any Venezuelan who is conscious of the drama that the country is going through could support," said Ramos Allup yesterday in response to the position taken by Primero Justicia and MAS.
Luis Ignacio Planas, secretary-general of the Christian democratic party COPEI, said that the opposition "shouldn't fall in the government's trap," which he claims is trying to divide opposition sectors. He called for a united front among opposition parties in total rejection of the proposal. Planas emphasized the necessity "to show the Venezuelan people that in the face of the grave threat that the approval of a constitutional reform like the one proposed presents, there is a consciousness among the opposition to work together and confront it united."
Carlos Ocariz of Primero Justica, however, announced that his political party will ask the Supreme Court to apply article 344 of the constitution, which allows for the proposed changes to the constitution to be voted on separately in a national referendum.
Student groups from the Central University of Venezuela (UCV) have also announced plans to oppose the reform proposal. Student representatives announced that they would begin to debate the reform in the student parliament today and plan a public demonstration in the east Caracas neighborhood of Chacaito, an opposition stronghold.
"On Wednesday we will take to the streets, in Plaza Brión in Chacaito, so that everyone can give their opinion of the reform. We are democratic students and we are going to debate the content of this reform that has the goal of giving more power to the president," said president of student center of Andres Bello Catholic University Freddy Guevara.
Stalin Gonzalez, coordinator of the Student Parliament, and leader of the student protests that surrounded the RCTV case last May, assured that the students do not agree with the constitutional reform as has been proposed by President Chavez.
"This isn't a constitutional reform; it is changing the constitution to its core. We are going to come to an agreement so that we can confront the reform," he said.