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Venezuelan Legislator: Opposition Distributes Lies about Constitutional Reform

Caracas, November 16, 2007 ( - Venezuelan National Assembly Deputy Mario Isea accused that an "ex-presidential candidate, together with other people from the opposition" are reproducing and distributing bogus examples of the proposed constitutional reforms, with falsified articles saying that all private property will become the property of the state, as part of a campaign of lies and manipulation in the lead up to the constitutional referendum on December 2.

A pamphlet produced by Un Nuevo Tiempo, party of ex-presidential candidate Manuel Rosales, makes similar claims, implying that the government will confiscate people's houses, cars, "air-conditioners" and other personal effects if the reforms are passed. The pamphlet also insinuates that a government campaign to distribute 23 million energy saver light bulbs to households in Venezuela earlier in the year was really a sinister plot to carry out a secret census of people's possessions.

Isea ridiculed the idea last Thursday, saying, "Article 115 is very precise: it guarantees private one is going to take your shop, your car, or you house," he affirmed.

Vice-President Jorge Rodriguez pointed out, "The constitution consecrates, not only personal and social property, but also the right to a house, to health, to food sovereignty."

In addition to private property, the proposed changes to article 115 would also recognize other forms of property, including collective, communal, and social property. Housing, a pressing issue in Venezuela, is also addressed in a proposed change to article 82, which guarantees the right to a "dignified house" to all Venezuelans, which cannot be confiscated, even in the event of failure to pay a mortgage or bankruptcy.

Rodriguez said the principal adversary to the reforms is the campaign of lies by the opposition and that in order to counter this, millions of copies of the reforms had been distributed so that people know the truth. He stressed that it is very important for people to read the content of the reforms.

Meanwhile, the National Electoral Council (CNE), which is funding 50% of the referendum campaign for both the "Yes" bloc of organizations and political parties in favor of the reforms and the "No" bloc of groups and political parties against the reforms, announced it will carry out a verification of all advertising material in the campaign, after receiving complaints from both sides.

The CNE suspended an ad by the Yes bloc yesterday, which depicted a cartoon of the devil to the music of opposition private TV channel, Globovision, after Globovision protested that the use its music in the ad incited "violence and hatred."

Blanca Eeckout, a spokesperson for the Yes bloc, said with irony that she was glad that Globovision has recognized that their music promotes violence and hatred. She recalled that Globovision used this music during the coup of April 2002, in which opposition private media played a key role and that the ad was a humorous reflection on the destabilizing activities of the opposition during this period, as well as the oil industry lockout in 2002-2003, which caused up to $10 billion in losses to the economy.

While Eeckout said she respected the decision of the CNE to suspend the ad, she also hoped that the CNE would act with the same speed to remove ads by the No bloc, which lie, incite violence, and promote fear.

In particular, the Yes bloc is demanding the withdrawal of an ad by the No bloc, which depicts a government functionary walking into a shop and telling the proprietor that his shop is now the property the state.

"This ad of the No bloc is a lie about property, that falsifies the truth, that misinforms, that creates a climate of terror and violence," Eckout declared.

To lie about the reforms is against electoral regulations, Eckout argued, and for this reason, the ad should be forbidden.

CNE President Tibisay Lucena affirmed that the CNE would act to ensure both sides comply with the norms and regulations.

The National Assembly also announced yesterday that it would open an investigation into allegations that a number of Catholic colleges throughout the country were obliging school children to read and discuss documents produced by the Venezuela Episcopal Conference against the reforms.

Other false claims circulating about the reforms include the claim that the state will "expropriate" children from their parents, eliminate unions, and abolish university autonomy.

Despite this campaign of misinformation, Isea assured that the opinion polls indicate that the majority of Venezuelans support the reforms and he believes Venezuelan's will vote overwhelmingly in favor in the referendum in December.

Published on Nov 17th 2007 at 11.05am