Venezuela: Struggle for constitution change

February 13, 2009

Dr Julian Isaias Rodriguez, a former vice president and participant in the drafting of the 1999 Venezuelan constitution, told Green Left Weekly that the proposed constitutional amendment to be voted on by the Venezuelan people on February 15 will "allow people to be real protagonists and fundamental actors in making their own history".

The amendment to the national constitution, if approved, would allow citizens to re-elect any public officials they support. Currently, a limit of two terms exists.

Crucially, it would pave the way for a possible re-election of President Hugo Chavez in 2012.

Chavez, the central leader of the Venezuelan revolution, has already been elected three times (twice under the current constitution), the last time with a historic 63% of the vote, on a clear platform of moving Venezuela towards socialism.

A labour lawyer by trade, Rodriguez has been a key participant in the Venezuelan revolution. Elected senator just prior to Hugo Chavez's first victory in the 1998 presidential campaign, he resigned shortly after and successfully stood as a candidate in the 1999 elections to the Constituent Assembly.

After filling the newly created role of vice president during 2000, he was designated attorney general by the National Assembly, a position he held until December 2007.

Rodriguez argued that the constitutional amendment "will represent the conquering of new democratic spaces, that until now have been restricted by norms and statutes inherited from the old oligarchies and that are still reflected in the constitution.

"When people take up the responsibility of redressing their constitutions, they are able to advance toward a stronger power: popular power. This is being put in practice in Bolivia and Ecuador."

Rodriguez told GLW that, "Democracy should move in accordance with social evolution, consolidating new conquests and adapting constitutions to the needs of the people".

He argued that there "is a big difference between the new Latin American democracies and many others, such as those that exist in Europe ... [which] are representative democracies instead of participatory democracies.

"In Europe, it is the elected political party bosses who are the ones that direct 'popular politics', but they do so according to their needs and not the needs of the people."

One example of this, Rodriguez stated, is "the recent decision by the European Union regarding migration [which threatens to forcibly expel illegal migrants in Europe]. This bill discriminates against migrants and is an attack on human rights."

According to Rodriguez, while there "is no reason to think that the referendum will be defeated", if this occurred, "the struggle of people will not be stopped".

"Right now the level of consciousness of the people won't allow it ... they will not allow a return to the past."

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