Monday, December 3, 2007
Believers in democratic principles were heartened today to hear that Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez's socialist reform package was voted down, 51 percent to 49 percent, in a much-anticipated national referendum. The reforms would have expanded the powers of the presidency and permitted Chavez, the man who called President Bush "the devil" at the United Nations, to run for reelection indefinitely. To his credit, Chavez, who has run Venezuela for the past 9 years, appears to have accepted the outcome of the vote. Critics, including large numbers of student demonstrators in the biggest cities, had complained that the reform package was a power grab by the wildly popular Chavez, who won 63 percent of the vote in his reelection campaign last year. In fact, much of the opposition was spearheaded by defectors from the Chavez camp, the Reuters international news agency reported, including Gen. Raul Isaias Baduel, the retired army commander, and Ismael Garcia, a deputy in the National Assembly. Chavez supporters till control the National Assembly, the Supreme Court, most state governments and the federal bureaucracy, Reuters says.