Caracas, November 14 2007 (venezuelanalysis.com) – Speaking
to national and international media at a press conference at the Miraflores Presidential
Palace yesterday, Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez denied opposition claims
that proposed constitutional reforms are aimed at increasing personal power,
rather, he explained, they are necessary to strengthen the independence of the
Venezuelan state and transfer power to the people.
"For many years in Venezuela they weakened the powers
of the state," Chavez explained, "as part of the neoliberal imperial plan that
aimed to weaken the economies of countries to insure domination."
"While we remained weak, imperialism was strengthened," he
As an example Chavez pointed to a proposal in the
constitutional reform that would remove the autonomy of the Central Bank, and
place it under the control of the executive. This would strengthen Venezuelan
independence and could be used to transfer power to the people he argued.
The idea of the autonomy of the
Central Bank and control of international reserves, applied to the majority of
poor countries including Venezuela, Chavez explained, "Is part of the
imperialist project, how the global capitalist dictatorship managed to impose
its norms, its laws, on almost the whole world."
In the United
and some European countries the reserves are not managed in total isolation
from the state Chavez argued.
The neoliberal idea of autonomy of
the Central Bank was imposed in Venezuela,
Chavez said. He pointed out that although the Central Bank is formally
constituted as a public institution, it is not accountable to the any of the
constitutional public powers including the legislature, the judiciary, the
electoral power, the citizen power or the executive.
"Who is it accountable to then?"
In reality, Chavez continued, the
Central Bank in Venezuela
has never been autonomous; "rather it was managed from Washington, through the International
Monetary Fund as the financial and political arm of North American
However, Chavez declared, "The
reserves of the country do not belong to the Central Bank, they belong to the
people of Venezuela."
"We have 30 billion in reserves, we
will finish [the year] with 32 billion; I at least consider, based on studies,
that Venezuela does not need 32 billion dollars in reserves, this figure places
us [on the same level] as one of the developed countries in Europe, now it
won't be the Central Bank that decides over these reserves."
The reserves would be used to giver
power to the people, through social and economic development projects Chavez
However, the most important aspect
of the reforms Chavez stressed, "is the transfer of power to the people,"
vested in the communal councils, workers councils, student councils and
campesino councils, regional and national federations of these councils, as
well as the formation of "communes" which will "constitute the basic nucleus of
the socialist state."
If approved, the reforms require five percent of the
national budget to be given to the grass roots communal councils.
On Monday Minister of Energy and president of the
state owned oil company, PDVSA, Rafael Ramirez, affirmed that all PDVSA owned
gas stations were ready to be handed over to the communal councils after Chavez
argued last week that democratizing the economy, "is
the only way to defeat poverty, to defeat misery and achieve the largest sum of
happiness for the people."
Recently returned from the Ibero-American
Summit in Chile
where "social cohesion" was the key issue under discussion, the Venezuelan
president also assured that "true social transformation is necessary in the
whole world before one can begin to think of social cohesion."
The situation of inequality and social and
economic differences that still exists in Latin America
as a result of the capitalist and neo-liberal policies of the developed
countries is the principle obstacle to achieving social cohesion, Chavez
Chavez also denied opposition claims that those
who don't agree with socialism will be excluded if the reforms are passed,
"This is a lie, it's totally false."
The opposition has also criticised another
proposed change, which would remove limits on presidential terms and allow
Chavez to stand for re-election in 2013, claiming that Chavez "wants to be in
power for life," however this would not effect the electoral process in
Venezuela, and still allows for a presidential mandate to be revoked half way
through the presidential term through a recall referendum. Government
supporters say this is really an admission by the opposition that they don't
have a candidate as popular as Chavez.
Chavez has also pointed out that more than 170
countries around the world do not place limits on re-election, including France, Australia,
the United Kingdom
Similarly, contrary to many claims in the international media, a ‘state
of emergency' clause would not remove an individual's right to due process, and
is entirely consistent with international law, with many countries such as
Australia and the United States, among others possessing similar laws.