VIO News Blog

December 18, 2008

Venezuelan National Assembly Begins Review of Proposed Constitutional Amendment

Debates began yesterday in Venezuela’s national assembly regarding an amendment to the constitution to allow indefinite reelection. AFP reports that a “similar” proposal was struck down in a national referendum last year, however, that vote was regarding a package of 69 reforms. Citizens did not weigh in on the issue of term limits specifically, which may be why, as AFP notes, the result of this voting process remains “an open question.”

Yesterday marked the end of the Rio Group summit that brought together the leaders of 33 Latin American countries. It was the largest regional meeting ever to take place without the U.S. or Europe, according to the AP. Mexico’s President Calderon suggested the creation of a Union of Latin American Nations, and host Lula da Silva said: “Two-hundred years is a long time to wait, but it is better late than never.” Bloomberg reports that countries appealed to the U.S. and international financial institutions for debt relief, and according to Reuters, they also advocated an end to the U.S. embargo against Cuba.

After the convivial Latin American summit, the Financial Times oddly reports that Venezuela’s effort to find allies is “running out of gas.” The Times misses the point of the “multilateralism” that President Chavez advocates, reporting instead suggesting that Chavez tries to dominate other countries through “largesse.” Aid programs such as Petrocaribe and ALBA were powerful precursors to the recent regional summit in Brazil, at which Chavez made few headlines. Venezuela’s oil assistance abroad will indeed shrink with the lowered price of crude, but poor countries will also need less assistance.

Finally, yesterday’s OPEC summit concluded with a firm decision to cut output that will see Venezuela’s oil production go down by 189,000 barrels per day, according to the AP. The AP wrongly states that there is a discrepancy between Venezuela’s official oil output and its real output. Bloomberg reports that the new production cut lowers output by about 5.9 percent. Government officials in Venezuela emphasize that they seek to stabilize oil prices.

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