VIO News Blog

January 14, 2009

Venezuelan Amendment to Give Greater Authority to the People

Yesterday, President Chavez gave his annual address to the National Assembly. The BBC reports that the Venezuelan leader advocated a referendum on ending term limits for elected officials. He said: “the objective of the amendment is to give greater power to the people and allow them greater authority to remove or install governments.” Chavez also highlighted the fact that, in the decade since he entered office, 2.7 million Venezuelans have escaped from poverty.

The Los Angeles Times and Reuters report on the national referendum that will likely take place next month. Reuters cites poll data showing that reflects a potential “no” vote on the issue of ending term limits for elected office. Campaigning, though, has not begun as a referendum date is not yet set. The Times repeats the common falsehood that this is something Venezuelan voters have already struck down. Last year’s referendum was on a package of 69 very diverse constitutional reforms, while the new electoral test is regarding a single amendment.

In economic news, Bloomberg and the AP report that OPEC oil countries may carry out further production cuts. According to the AP, Chavez said that Venezuela’s “strategy is to defend fair prices for oil.”

The AP also reports that Venezuela continues to negotiate a compensation deal for the steelmaker Ternium, and it is considering giving the private firm a ten percent stake in the newly nationalized industry.

Finally, the Wall Street Journal runs an op-ed by an author of the 2009 “Index of Economic Freedom” just released by the conservative Heritage Foundation. It says Venezuela’s rank dropped by 4.8 points, contradicting the actual report, which indicates a change of 3.8 points. The op-ed attributes Venezuela’s sinking rank to “price controls, currency devaluations, nationalizations and …corruption.” However, price controls were lifted in 2008, and the currency was not devalued — it has remained fixed since 2005. Foreign investment continues despite the nationalizations, and trade with the U.S. rose 25% last year. Meanwhile, corruption is perhaps Venezuela’s oldest political problem. The “Economic Freedoms” do not take into account important problems like unemployment, which is currently higher in the U.S. than in Venezuela.

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