Saturday, February 7, 2009
Signs of intelligent life in Venezuela
Saturday's protests in Caracas against Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez's plan to stay in power indefinitely shows that the people of this South American country are planning to resist his blatant power grab. Venezuelans go to the polls Feb. 15 to decide for the second time in three years whether to allow politicians to keep their seats for as long as they can win elections, according to the Reuters international news service. The Chavez-proposed reform is leading in the polls, Reuters said, even as tens of thousands of people streamed into Caracas streets to oppose the leftist leader's proposal. "This reform hides, as President Chavez himself has said, the start of what would be a country, a state with a Castro-communist system," said Manuel Rosales, a former opposition presidential candidate. The fiercely anti-U.S. Chavez is close friends with former Cuban leader Fidel Castro. Protesters, who marched from the city's largest slum to a wealthy business district, wore shirts that said, "I also want to be president," and complained about Venezuela's rising violent crime rate, Reuters said. But Chavez, who famously called former U.S. President George W. Bush "the devil" at the United Nations in 2006, is wildly popular among Venezuela's poor because he nationalized some of his nation's largest industries and raised spending on health and welfare since he took office in 1999.