Caracas, November 16, 2007
(venezuelanalysis.com) – Tens of thousands of people rallied in support of
Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez and his proposed constitutional reform in the
regional city of Barcelona,
Anzoátegui on Wednesday, as the countdown to the December 2 constitutional
Addressing the crowd, Chavez said that the key objective of
the reform, "is to give more power to the people." He pointed to a proposed
change to Article 64, which would lower the voting age from 18 to 16, saying "This
proposal will open participation to more than two million people; two million
youths of 16 years of age will have the ability to vote."
He also said that to vote ‘No' would holdback the process of
change in Venezuela, known as the Bolivarian revolution, and emphasized that
the reforms are necessary "to complement the work of transforming the country,
to open paths to participation and social justice."
Speaking earlier the same day at a rally of thousands of
supporters in Maturín, in the state of Monagas, Chavez said the opposition's
plans to destabilize the country would fail because "Venezuela now is not the same as it
was in 2002 [when the opposition attempted a military coup]. The people as well
as the government remain alert in the face of destabilizing plans…now we won't
be surprised like we were in 2002."
However at a press conference on Tuesday, Chavez warned of
the potential consequences of a repeated coup attempt. "If they kill me, or if there
is a coup d'état, there will be a civil war here," he said.
Chavez stressed that Venezuela
was the fifth largest exporter of crude oil in the world, and one of the
largest suppliers to the United
States. A coup d'état "is the perfect plan"
imperialism he continued. "To them it is not important if the Caribbean
Sea is dyed red with Venezuelan blood, they want our oil."
Chavez also reiterated his call to all Venezuelans to participate
in the referendum in order to defeat abstention.
"We must work very hard in the socialist battalions, the
commands of the campaign, the militants in the revolutionary parties, the
students, the campesinos, the workers, the women, the indigenous all of us must
work to reduce abstention," he said.
Similar rallies have been held throughout the country, in Barquisimeto, in the state of Lara, and in Aragua, the
home state of former Chavez ally, retired General Raul Isaias Baduel, whose
declaration against the reforms last week sparked demonstrations by Chavez
supporters outside the military barracks in Maracay calling Baduel a "traitor." More
rallies are planned for the remaining weeks of the campaign.
Small but violent demonstrations against the reforms by
opposition students from Venezuela's elite and private universities, who claim
the reforms that will enable Chavez to stand for reelection, will lead to a
"dictatorship," have also galvanized Chavez's support base, the poor majority,
into action in favor of the reforms.
While opposition to Chavez and the reforms is predominantly
centered in the wealthy areas, red graffiti saying "Si a la Reforma" – Yes to
the reforms – can be seen everywhere, on houses, cars and buses, in the poor
barrios of Caracas, home to an estimated five million people.
The socialist battalions of the new United Socialist Party
of Venezuela (PSUV), have also begun a door knocking campaign across the
country, visiting all of the 5.7 million people who signed up to be members of
the new party earlier this year and distributing information about the content
of the reforms.
More than fifteen thousand university students wearing red
shirts emblazoned with "Yes" also marched in Caracas on Wednesday in support of the
reforms. The students also condemned violent acts by opposition students who
attacked a group of Chavista students in the Central University of Venezuela
last week, threatening to lynch them and holding them hostage for several hours
inside the School
of Social Work as they
threw rocks and other objects and attempted to set fire to the building.
The students also distributed information about the reforms,
which aim to democratize the universities by giving students and general staff
and workers voting parity with academic staff in internal university elections,
a move vehemently opposed by university authorities.
Gladis Gonzalez, a law student from the Bolivarian University
said the reforms represent "a step towards participatory democracy…we are
consolidating this revolutionary process."
Chavez assured yesterday that the majority of Venezuelans
support the reforms and the results of a poll by Datanalisis published in the
November 12 edition of El Universal indicates that the reforms will be approved