Revised Venezuelan Constitutional Reform Proposal Presented to Legislature

Venezuela's National Assembly held an Extraordinary Session yesterday to present the findings of the Commission tasked to review the Constitutional Reform Proposal. Towards the end of the public event a scuffle broke out between opposition supporters and Chavez supporters.

Caracas, October 16, 2007 (
National Assembly held an Extraordinary Session yesterday to present the
finding's of the Commission tasked to review the Constitutional Reform
Proposal.  Towards the end of the public
event a scuffle broke out between opposition supporters and Chavez supporters.

AN President Cilia Flores
explained that on top of Chavez's 33 proposed reforms, which he presented to
the AN on August 15th, the commission added 25 of its own reform
proposals.  According to Flores, the AN
reforms were acquired through direct consultation with the Venezuelan people,
either through "street parliaments", direct consultation in the homes of some
Venezuelan residents, or a "tribunal" set up in front of the National Assembly
to collect suggestions. 

"During the
Consultation, there were sectors that participated with objections to the
reform," said Flores.  "With the greatest respect, we received their
proposals, and the majority of the representatives of the Mixed Commission made
a decision, and took into account the proposals that we considered
complementary to the proposal of President Chavez and that were in the same
spirit of the reform and the project of the country that is contained in the
present 1999 Constitution of the Bolivarian Republic of Venezuela."

Flores explained that their 25 additional reforms
were necessary in order to incorporate the will of the people in the
Constitutional Reform proposal.   

"We, in the Mixed
Commission systematized all of the proposals," said Flores.  

Celia Flores explained
that on top of their additional reforms, the Mixed Commission  also "complimented" some of Chavez's 33
proposed reforms with proposals from other sectors.      

The following is a
partial list of (Chavez and National Assembly) reforms mentioned yesterday by Flores in her exposition:

Some of Chavez's Proposals elaborated by the
Mixed Commission of the National Assembly

Article 67: Recognize
the equality between men and women for the positions of popular election. "All
political organizations should present an equal number of male and female
candidates," said Flores

Article 87: Creation
of a "Social Stability Fund" for independent contractors, including housewives,
domestic workers, taxi workers, etc…   

Article 90: Lowering the
work-week from 44 to 36 hours per week.

Article 115: Flores proclaimed that never before has the term "private
property" been recognized in a Venezuelan Constitution, until this reform.  As well as private property, other forms of
property, such as social property, are also recognized.  However, according to Flores,
there are limits.  "Where you have a
school, there can not be a bar, a liquor store or a bingo.  Now it is regulated under law and we have to
preserve it," said Flores

Article 158:  Gives a minimum of 5% of the Venezuelan
annual budget to the Communal Councils.

Article 329:  Re-names the National Armed Forces to
Bolivarian Armed Force and transforms the Military Reserves into the Bolivarian

Proposals elaborated by the Mixed Commission

Article 21:  Include sexual orientation and health as two
additional identifications which one cannot discriminate against.

The voting age would
be lowered to 16 

Articles 71- 74:
Increases percentages of the participation necessary to carry out a referendum

Article 82: Housing
Protection, "No one can take your home not even, because of debt," said Flores. "There will be special protection for the

Article 98: Takes out
Intellectual Property from this article, which pertains to cultural
property.  According to Flores,
this will not make any changes to current law

Article 109: "You have
to democratize the Universities," said Flores who stated that under the new
reform the vote of a student will be equal to the vote of a professor.

Article 153:
International and Latin American Unity.  The
Creation of the Union of the Republics. 

Article 191:  Proposes that Representatives may return to
their position in the National Assembly when they are temporarily appointed by
the President to carry out another position. 

Article 337

Yesterday's event,
however was not without incident. 
Opposition protestors disrupted Flores,
with the mention of the controversial proposed reform to article 337, which
refers to the "state of exception (or emergency)." 

The protestors
chanted, "Freedom of Expression" from the back of the auditorium, which called
the attention of the media and pro-Chavez crowd which chanted back, "Uh, ah,
Chavez isn't going anywhere."

A nearly inaudible Flores called for order, and offered the floor to anyone
interested in speaking after the exposition. 
Flores lamented from the stage that the
National Assembly had accepted the request from the same group of opposition
student leaders to speak during a previous debate on the reforms, but the group
had withdrawn after their one presentation.

According to the
latest reform document on the National Assembly website, reforms to article
337, would eliminate the right to "information", "due process" and other
"inaliable human rights" in times of "exception", or emergency.  While the reform keeps intact the right to
life, protection from torture, incommunication and forced disappearances, critics
of the article call it an erosion in human rights. 

Oscar Figuera,
National Assembly Representative for the Communist Party, also spoke out on the
particular article yesterday, stating that it had to be debated with "much
care" because the right to information "pertains to the society and not
capitalist interests nor the owners of the mainstream media."

Representative Calixto
Ortega, spoke out in favor of the reform to 337, explaining that if it had been
valid, in 2002, the leaders of the December oil lockout, would not have been
able to have carried out "the catastrophe" of the "paralysis of the oil

"He who respects the
Constitution and the Law, has nothing to worry about," Ortega told Union Radio.

Nevertheless, most of
those in the audience, were well in support of the proposed changes, which
President Chavez has pushed to vote on in a block, and not one by one. 

"This constitutional
reform represents for us a new opportunity, to struggle, to advance and to push
forward concrete actions," stated Heister Vaamonde, member of the United
Socialist Block of Liberation, a homosexual grassroots organization who loudly
applauded the reform to Article 21, which calls for "no discrimination"
according to sexual orientation.

"For now, I feel very
good about all of the articles, but there are some things that one has to read
well and consult to make sure that one understands everything," said Maria
Teresa Hernandez a student in the Ribas education mission and the new Che
Guevara socio-economic production mission.

The third and final
debate in the full National Assembly begins today, in which each of the 58
total articles will be debated separately. 
A legislative vote, which is expected to easily pass through the
pro-Chavez congress, is planned for early November.  The national referendum on the proposed
changes is expected to take place in early December.   

a copy in Spanish of the report presented for this third debate (with the
updated National Assembly changes)