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Aug 6th 2007

Hugo Chavez: No term limits for me!

From the BBC we read about Hugo Chavez’ latest “democratic initiative”:

Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez has confirmed that he will try to change the law to allow him to remain in power indefinitely.

Under the current constitution, Mr Chavez will have to leave office at the end of his term in 2012.

As Steven Taylor at PoliBlog says:

This will hardly be a surprise to anyone who has been paying attention.

15 Responses to “Hugo Chavez: No term limits for me!”

  1. Curtis

    Term limits may have their merits, but if a man is democratically supported by the majority of his population and he is what the people want should we be upset with that? I thought we were all about democracy and freedom.

  2. doug

    Sorry, I’m with George Washington on this one.

  3. Curtis

    Was George in favor of term limits? We didn’t have them here in the US until after FDR died.

  4. doug

    I should add:

    In Latin America, where the politics have been poisoned by caudillos of all political stripes, removing term limits for a president should be lamented.

  5. Curtis

    Do not Latin Americans have the ability to vote out there Caudillos if they don’t want them anymore?

  6. doug

    Curtis,

    If you can’t see the danger in weak institutions/rules and a strong leader (left or right-leaning)…then I’m not sure what to say other than that your love for Chavez and all things anti-USA has blinded you to the most basic principles of durable democratic government.

    You are extraordinarily ignorant to the political problems that have plagued Latin America for the last hundred years, or you are purposefully being belligerent.

    Either way I don’t see much point in discourse.

  7. Curtis

    Whether you want to argue or not, Venezuela has a very fair electoral system and if they don’t want Chavez anymore, he’s gone whether or not the constitution is changed to abolish term limits.

    Why do you call me extraordinarily ignorant? Is it just because I have a different viewpoint than you and you can’t accept that? There are many people that think as I do. Are we all ignorant? Which side has the truth? Is truth owned by you Doug?

  8. I wouldn’t say Doug owns the truth, but the track record for many Latin American countries is checkered at best. Certainly Venezuela’s recent history has been plagued by accusations of fraud, voter intimidation, and other voting irregularity. At least some of these complaints have been corroborated by international monitoring agencies, and FreedomHouse.org has downgraded Venezuela’s democracy score “due to an increase in intimidation of opposition groups.” While I don’t know how accurate all of those accusations have been, I think they are sufficient to establish that Venezuela does not have a “very fair electoral system.” I wouldn’t endorse Doug’s choice of words, but I agree that ignoring these trends is either naïve or disingenuous.

  9. Curtis

    Peter,
    I see what you’re saying. However, the last few elections in Venezuela have been widely observed by the OAS and the Carter Center etc. and for the most part have been given a clear bill of health.

    I don’t think that anyone with any sort of credibility that Chavez has won by electoral fraud. As far as the increased intimidation of opposition groups go, they probably include Chavez administration officials attempts at prosecuting those members who were involved in the failed coup against Chavez in 2002. Opposition candidates boycotted the last parliamentary elections after certain demands on the electoral council were not met (in spite of the electoral council’s capitulation on most of the opposition’s demands). Perhaps these are the instances of “intimidation” spoken of.

    Any observer of Venezuelan elections over the last few years, knows that the majority of media outlets and the business community with its wealth are opposed to Chavez’s government and they continue practically unrestrained in their opposition. There is the issue of the non-renewal of RCTV’s contract on the public airwaves, but that is a controversial story that stems from their complicity in facilitating the coup back in 2002. The vast majority of the remainder of the opposition controlled private media outlets still oppose as vehemently as before.

    I’m neither naive nor disingenuous (nor extraordinarily ignorant for that matter). It’s amazing to me how some people can think that about someone when a different viewpoint is presented. I wish that folks would look deeper into the situation before closing their minds on the subject.

  10. While emblematic of the civil liberties situation in the country, Venezuela’s electoral system is not at the heart of its troubles. It is not how the elected officials come to power so much as what they do when they arrive that signals a failing democracy. From FreedomHouse.org:

    Venezuela is an electoral democracy. However, the political opposition is forced to operate under increasingly difficult conditions. The December 2005 National Assembly elections were marred by an anemic turnout linked to calls for a boycott by the opposition, which claimed that the secrecy of the vote was compromised by the combination of mechanized voting machines and fingerprint-based antifraud equipment. Though the CNE agreed to forgo use of the equipment, the opposition felt confirmed in its mistrust and decided to sit out the elections. In April 2006, a new CNE board of directors was appointed by the legislature; despite a 4–1 majority on the board in favor of President Hugo Chavez, the opposition decided to actively contest the December 2006 presidential election. Though the voting process was generally considered free and fair, the CNE was ineffectual at limiting Chavez’s use of state resources for his political benefit. The president enjoyed a massive advantage in television exposure, and the promotion of social and infrastructure projects often blurred the line between Chavez’s role as head of state and his campaign. Venezuela’s two million public-sector workers received holiday bonuses in early November rather than the usual mid-December. Also in early November, a recording emerged of Energy Minister Rafael Ramirez declaring that all workers at PDVSA, the state oil company, had to campaign in favor of the president, remarks that Chavez repeated with approval. The opposition also alleged that the limited use of fingerprint-identification machines was designed to intimidate voters, and that the electoral registry was of highly questionable accuracy.

  11. Curtis

    “Though the CNE agreed to forgo use of the equipment, the opposition felt confirmed in its mistrust and decided to sit out the elections.”

    Your own source points to the foolishness of the opposition. Though the CNE capitulated, and had no reason to boycott, boycott they did anyway.

    “The president enjoyed a massive advantage in television exposure…”

    On state run television that is. In the private media which controls a lot more exposure than the state does, the only exposure he gets is badmouthing by the opposition.

    “the promotion of social and infrastructure projects often blurred the line between Chavez’s role as head of state and his campaign.”

    This is the core of Chavez’s philosophy. Socialism is by definition a promoter of social and infrastructural projects! So he should do no good for the people so that elections will be “fair?”

    The PDVSA campaign thing is not cool I agree. Still, Chavez won by a landslide. I get the distinct impression that the opposition is just being sore losers in their complaints.

  12. Given the vote tallies, I do not doubt that Hugo Chávez got that majority of the vote. That, however, is not my point. I am most concerned about the demise of democratic institutions in Venezuela and what I perceive as flagrant violations of basic democratic and free speech principles. This includes the PDVSA affair, the use of government funds in MVR reelection campaigns, the unprincipled use of state-run television, blacklists of people who voted against Chávez, and the harassment of reporters and other members of the media. The petulant complaints of the Venezuelan opposition are pathetic but irrelevant. Nor are they justification for the curtailments of free speech and transparency.

  13. Jeffrey

    To paraphrase a great quote,

    “Old dictators never fade away, they just die or are assassinated.”

    Chavez is following in the footsteps of the world’s great tyrants and despots.

  14. Andrew Ryan

    Does Curtis even understand the concept of creeping tyranny?

    A president who gains popularity by merely supporting populist policies (such as using oil revenue to distribute free food) is not really leading, but merely pandering to base human instincts.

    Sometimes leaders have to actually, you know, lead rather than engage in virtual vote buying. I live in a country where politicians engage in precisely this disgusting socialist habit, distributing free food and rice to half-starved people. Those people of course, are so thankful that they are eating rather than starving when in fact they have been blinded into thinking they should be satisfied with food handouts rather than demanding a better future where basic necessities such as this are taken for granted and don’t have to be ‘given’ to them by sick-minded socialist politicians who would reduce us all to mere animals rather than have us fulfill our destiny as intellectual beings!

  15. This one’s for you, tyranny! Looks like Chavez is going the exact opposite of the Left. Unbelievable…

    http://politic.ology.com/2009/02/16/recent-achievements-in-tyranny/

    -Jared J. H. Catapano (ology.com)