VIO News Blog

December 19, 2008

More than Four Million Venezuelan Citizens Sign Petition to Reelect Chavez

Nearly 4.8 million signatures supporting a constitutional amendment to end presidential term limits were turned over to Venezuela’s National Assembly yesterday, according to Bloomberg. This was a symbolic gesture from members of the pro-Chavez United Socialist Party of Venezuela. After a first round of debates, lawmakers gave preliminary approval to a bid to hold a national referendum on the amendment. The AP reports that one Congresswoman called this an expression of “the voice of the people.”

A second round of debates in the National Assembly is set to take place next month. The BBC reports that the issue of indefinite reelection “was rejected in a referendum last year,” however, it was not singled out in this way. The referendum was regarding a package of 69 different constitutional reforms.

A Washington Post editorial opposing an amendment makes the blatantly false claim that elections in Venezuela are not free and fair. All international observers have verified the transparency of Venezuela’s democratic elections, including the OAS, the EU, the Carter Center, the NAACP, and the National Lawyer’s Guild. The Post jettisons these official findings in favor of one unsubstantiated report from the Miami Herald last week that claimed pro-Chavez candidates tried to bribe voters with free refrigerators in a state where they lost. Contrary to what the Post writes, President Chavez conceded defeat in the last referendum on constitutional reforms quickly and calmly, with no pressure from the military. The official results of that referendum have indeed been released by the country’s independent National Electoral Council.

In economic news, Venezuela’s Central Bank announced yesterday that it seeks to cut inflation by half in 2009. The AP reports that Director Armando Leon said that there are no plans to devalue the currency, and that the country is fairly insulated from the world economic crisis, with $37 billion in international reserves. The Economist reports on alternative currencies that are used in some parts of Venezuela. Allowed under the constitution, these currencies foster increased commercial exchange in local markets.

Finally, British Prime Minister Gordon Brown echoed the sentiments of OPEC countries yesterday by emphasizing the need for oil price stability. According to the AFP, Brown said: “volatility is in no-one’s interest. Wild fluctuations in market prices harm nations all around the world, they damage producers and consumers alike.”

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