The Herald vs Hugo
Venezuelans will decide President Hugo Chavez's future today in a referendum that could end term limits...On the eve of the vote, Chavez - first elected in 1998 -said the proposed constitutional amendment would deepen democracy by allowing voters to choose the officials they want...He shrugged off opposition talk of dictatorship, pointing out that Franklin Roosevelt was elected United States President four times...
Without a constitutional amendment, Chavez will have to leave office in 2013. He lost a broader referendum in December 2007 that also sought to abolish presidential term limits, and says nothing is stopping him from trying again if he loses this time.
What Chavez is seeking in today's referendum is an end to the limit on the number of times Venezuela's President can be re-elected. Under the country's Bolivarian constitution, which was drawn up by an elected assembly and approved by referendum in the first year of Chavez's rule, a President can only serve two terms in office.
Chavez's second term expires in 2013, and we wants to stand for re-election at the end of that term. For this reason, he and his supporters - a million of them marched through Caracas the other day - have gone to the voters to seek approval for an amendment to the constitution.
The Herald's article is radically misleading, because it repeatedly suggests that Chavez wants to extend his rule by making his current term as President limitless. There is a world of difference between a 'President for life', who never has to go to the voters to renew his mandate, and a President who spends a long period in office because he is repeatedly approved by the voters. Chavez is quite right to use Roosevelt as an example of leader who was re-elected repeatedly, yet never became a dictator.
In its attempt to portray Chavez as a threat to democracy, the Herald's article echoes, whether consciously or unconsciously, the propaganda of the Venezuelan opposition, the US government and many right-wing newspapers and blogs. The opportunism of the anti-Chavez propagandists is extraordinary. When the Bolivarian constitution was created a decade ago, the Venezuelan opposition and its overseas supporters condemned the document as a blueprint for 'totalitarianism'. The leaders of the US-backed coup which wrested power from Chavez for a couple of days in 2002 unceremoniously tore up the constitution and instituted martial law. Now, suddenly, the constitution has become a rock of democracy which must not be altered in any way.
I'm sorry if I sound like an apologist for tyranny, but I think that it should be up to the Venezuelan people, and not the governments and the media of the West, to decide who occupies the Presidential palace in Caracas.