On July 18 the Miami Herald published an article "Chavez party seeks changes for third term." The article discussed Chavez's efforts to amend the Venezuelan Constitution and allow infinite presidential re-election. COHA Research Associate Lydia Pardini prepared and submitted the following letter to the editor in response to the article.
Venezuelan President Chávez’s renewed effort to amend the Constitution is based on his idea that “peace, tranquility and development” in Venezuela is contingent on him remaining in power (“Chávez party seeks changes for third term,” Jul 18). Yet his two terms in office have revealed a somewhat mixed record in achieving these goals. For example, the murder rate in Venezuela has risen in the past few years to 48 per 100,000, the second highest rate in the world.
The social missions aimed at bringing social justice to the country’s poverty stricken established early in the Chávez presidency, have enjoyed some successes. However, these programs are entirely dependent on a constant flow of high-price state oil revenue and do not necessarily constitute reliable development. Furthermore, the extensive and inefficient bureaucracy in charge of these programs (much of it inherited from the country’s past traditional regimes) has been marred by accusations of corruption.
In a referendum last December a narrow majority of Venezuelans rejected a set of reforms that would have allowed indefinite presidential re-election. Yet, as of now, up to 56% seem convinced of his ability to provide peace and development in the long term. Thus, if Chávez truly hopes to win the country’s upcoming regional elections in November, he needs to deliver on some of his promises, concentrating more on internal improvements rather than grand visions.
Council on Hemispheric Affairs