IN OTHER WORDS: Power lust
Newspeak is alive and well in Venezuela. Last week, President Hugo Chávez portrayed planned constitutional amendments that would allow him to be re-elected indefinitely as a step toward “participatory democracy.” Chávez’s plan is just another step in the march to increase his government’s control over Venezuela’s politics and economy. Behind the Orwellian rhetorical tactics, his efforts to amass power and cling to it for as long as he can are undermining Venezuela’s democracy. Chávez remains, at least technically, a democrat. He has repeatedly beaten Venezuela’s dysfunctional opposition in elections deemed fair by international observers. He won a landslide victory last December, extending his mandate until 2012. His proposed constitutional reforms must be submitted to a vote in the National Assembly and to a referendum. But his government’s veneer of democratic respectability is wearing thin. Every member of the National Assembly is an ally of Chávez.
Chávez’s plan to allow himself to run for re-election — to achieve his goal of governing until the 200th anniversary of Venezuelan independence in 2021 — could lock Venezuela in the grip of an all-powerful strongman for years to come. It’s participatory democracy in which only Chávez and his friends get to participate.