Venezuela’s President Hugo Chavez proposed February 15, 2009, as a possible date for the upcoming referendum to allow his reelection, and warned that recently elected opposition politicians aim to mimic government policies in an effort to gain popular support.
Carora, December 22, 2008 (venezuelanalysis.com)– Venezuela’s President Hugo Chavez proposed February 15, 2009, as a possible date for the upcoming referendum to allow his reelection, and warned that recently elected opposition politicians aim to mimic government policies in an effort to gain popular support.
Chavez’s comments were made on the nationally televised Sunday program, “Hello, President,” the first since a break due to regional elections, broadcast from a newly refurnished “People’s Health Clinic” in the densely populated barrio of El Valle, in Caracas.
Chavez said that the date for the referendum could be February 15, which “coincides with the date of Simon Bolivar’s speech at Angostura, in the recently inaugurated congress of that city in 1819.”
This speech is of special historical significance in relation to the referendum because Chávez’s opponents cite it in reference to Bolivar’s warning against allowing a ruler rule for a long period of time. The opposition has thus named its campaign against the amendment, the “Angostura” campaign.
Chávez and his supporters, though, argue that the opposition is taking Bolivar out of context because when he made the comments there were no national popular elections of the president.
The constitutional amendment Chávez is proposing would still guarantee periodic presidential elections once every six years, along with the possibility of a recall referendum halfway through a term.
Chavez’s supporters delivered a reported 4.7 million signatures to the National Assembly last week, in support of a popular referendum to change wording in the constitution from “the president may be reelected only once” to simply “the president may be reelected.”
He also advised governors and mayors of his United Socialist Party (PSUV) to beware of the opposition strategy of “pretend, rather than govern,” and said they intend to “infiltrate and sabotage,” the popular social missions implemented by Chavez’s government.
The opposition “attempted to create a platform to threaten Chavez, they aren’t really concerned about the poor, the poor children in Venezuela,” Chavez said.
“Remember that [current opposition Mayor Antonio] Ledezma was the metropolitan mayor of Caracas when the Caracazo happened,” Chavez recalled, referring to the brutal repression of large-scale protests against IMF-imposed austerity measures in 1989.
The program also included the inauguration of the health clinic, the twelfth of its kind in the Caracas area, according to Chavez, which was abandoned by the Venezuelan Social Security Institute (IVSS) when in the hands of previous governments.
“The IVSS was being eliminated, readied to be privatized,” Chavez said. “But we stopped all of that, right when we came to power.”
During the program, Chavez also made headlines by announced the expropriation of a mall, known as “Sambil,” under construction in central Caracas.
He instructed Jorge Rodriguez, mayor of Caracas’s largest municipality, Libertador, to review the construction of the Sambil mall, asking “How are we going to create socialism giving our public space to Sambil [mall]?”
“Expropriate that area and use it to form a school or university,” Chavez directed.