Tuesday, August 21, 2007

Venezuela's National Assembly Enables Hugo Chavez To Become A Lifelong President

CARACAS, Venezuela - Venezuela's National Assembly gave yesterday unanimous initial approval to constitutional reforms.President Chavez proposed changes to the constitution, including the lifting of presidential term limits.

The Venezuelan National Assembly President Cilia Flores said the proposed changes to the constitution, including the lifting of presidential term limits were approved by all 167 lawmakers.

The reforms will extend presidential terms from six to seven years and allow Chavez to run again in 2013.President Chavez presented reforms to end central bank autonomy, increase state expropriation powers and give the president direct control over monetary reserves.

The legislature will hold two more votes to ratify the changes, which must be approved through a popular referendum that legislators say they hope will take place in early December,2007.

The Venezuelan government opponents have attacked the reforms, saying they will weaken democracy by permitting Hugo Chavez to become a lifelong president of Venezuela.

President Chavez was re-elected by more than 60 percent of voters in the elections held on December 3, 2006, on promises to steer his oil-producing nation toward socialism.Chavez says the changes will give Venezuelans greater decision-making power and aid the transfer of billions of dollars from Venezuela's foreign reserves into social programs.

Chavez said that the Venezuelan government should be able to control assets of private companies before winning a court expropriation ruling.Chavez also said the maximum workday would be reduced to six hours from eight hours per day as part of the reforms.

"This reform is essential.We are starting a new era...now heading straight toward socialism," Chavez said during a telephone interview with Venezuelan state television.

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