Tens of thousands of Venezuelans flooded Caracas on Saturday, to celebrate the 10th anniversary of President Hugo Chavez’s election. Caracas, December 8, 2008 (venezuelanalysis.com)– Tens of thousands of Venezuelans flooded Caracas on Saturday, to celebrate the 10th anniversary of President Hugo Chavez’s election.
In a nationally televised event, Chavez addressed his supporters from the presidential palace, reviewing the history of Venezuela`s “Bolivarian Revolution,” and rallying the crowd in support of a constitutional amendment that would allow his re-election in 2012.
He recalled the popular revolt in 1989 known as the “Caracazo” when thousands of Venezuelans protested neoliberal economic policies of then-president Carlos Andrés Perez. The ensuing government repression left an unknown number of missing and dead, with some estimates in the thousands.
“The first period [of the revolution] began with the storm of the Caracazo, the people who went into the street against the repressive policies and said enough! I want us to pay tribute to the martyrs of the Caracazo,” Chavez said.
Chavez explained that the second period of the revolution began with his election in 1998, when he defeated a former Miss Venezuela, Irene Saez, among others, in a historic election that broke the decades-old power-sharing agreement between the two established political parties.
The third stage, according to Chavez, will last from 2009 until 2019. Chavez asked supporters to begin gathering signatures to support the constitutional amendment allowing his reelection. Two and a half million signatures of Venezuelan voters is sufficient to call a national referendum on a constitutional amendment, or a simple majority in the National Assembly, where the term limit amendment is expected to be presented.
Responding directly to critics of the proposed amendment, Chavez said that the opposition should not fear his possible candidacy in the 2012 elections. “You are the ones going around saying that Chavez is finished, that Chavez is incapable and good for nothing. So why are you so afraid [of the referendum]?”
“I will govern here as long as the people want, God willing,” Chavez said. “Only the people make the decisions about this country.”
Chávez’s allies recently won 17 out of 22 state governorships in regional elections on November 23, but opposition leaders took control of several important regions. Chavez and his followers accepted the losses, despite warnings from CNN and opposition sectors to the contrary.
The opposition has promised to unite to fight the amendment. “Chavez is trying to establish a military and authoritarian regime that persecutes all those who think differently from the government,” said Omar Barboza, an opposition leader. “We will guide society to defeat President Chavez’s attempt to remain in power.”
Despite the tough rhetoric, many analysts expect another electoral victory for Chavez and his movement. The vote on the amendment is expected for late February, and it will be the 14th time Venezuelans have gone to the polls since Chavez was elected in 1998.