Venezuela: Constitutional reform campaign heats up

Issue 

Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez said on January 20 that the government would not permit violent protests by "the pitiyanquis ["little yankies"]", according to the January 21 Ultimas Noticias.

Chavez was referring to recent violent demonstrations by right-wing, university student protesters in various parts of the country.

"Now we are seeing in action the plan of the Pact of Puerto Rico [where right-wing opposition leaders were reported to have met US embassy representatives recently], the guarimba [violent protests], destabilisation, burning of the country; we're not going to allow this.

"Now they are trying to present themselves as victims of a repressive Chavez."

"No, you know me very well. Nor is the government that I lead repressive; nor do I have a repressive character. No, it's just that I have told them, the oligarchs, that the stupid Chavez was left behind in 2002 [when a reactionary military coup against Chavez was defeated]", he added.

He was addressing a rally of the Front of Social Missions for a Yes Vote in the eastern coastal city of Barcelona. This was part of a growing series of rallies and meetings around the country to support a "Yes" vote in the referendum on February 15 on a proposed constitutional reform that would remove the current two-term limit on elected officials.

If passed, this would allow Chavez to stand for re-election in 2012.

"Over the weekend [of January 17-18] committees from various sectors of society swore to campaign hard to win the approval by public vote of the amendment", according to a January 19 report on Venezuelanalysis.com.

More than 20,000 people attended the swearing in of the heads of logistical and operational patrols of the United Socialist Party of Venezuela (PSUV) in Caracas on January 17.

Chavez "stated at the event that there are now about 100,000 such 'Yes committees' organized, or in formation", Venezuelanlaysis.com reported. "The committees are organized along various fronts and community lines, including women, youth, workers, communal councils, and the PSUV."

The article reported that on January 18, "10,000 transport workers, members of an estimated 9800 committees nationwide, vowed to work hard for the adoption of the constitutional amendment in a rally in Caracas".

Aristobulo Isturiz, a PSUV vice-president, stated at the rally: "The strength of the people is in unity ... it's the leaders who unite us. Chavez unites the people, makes the people a force. Chavez asked us for unity ..."

Isturiz told the transport workers that unity was also important in the struggle against old vices that still exist, and against the corrupt trade union bureaucrats and opportunists.

Another major rally occurred on January 17 at Camp Carabobo near Valencia in the country's west, where an estimated crowd of 20,000 heard Chavez welcome a caravan representing the National Front of Women for a Yes Vote.