Novembre 06, 2007
Venezuela's former defense minister came out in opposition to constitutional changes that would allow President Hugo Chávez to run for reelection indefinitely.
A former Venezuelan defense minister who was a longtime ally of President Hugo Chávez harshly opposed constitutional reforms on Monday that would let the leftist leader run for reelection indefinitely.
Raul Baduel said if the public approves the reforms in a Dec. 2 referendum, ``in practice a coup d'etat would be consummated, violating the constitutional text in a shameless way.''
Baduel, who was replaced in July, was a close confidant and key supporter of Chávez, helping him return to power after a short-lived 2002 coup. But he strongly opposed the constitutional change, saying ``it seizes away power from the people.''
Teodoro Petkoff, a Venezuelan journalist, told El Nuevo Herald in a telephone interview that Baduel's vocal opposition served as an important development ``not only for the population but for the military.''
``His words are going to have a tremendous national impact because he is a respected general who has come out in defense of the [current] constitution and against the threat of a constitution that would be regressive and authoritarian.''
Political analyst Ricardo Sucre told El Nuevo that Baduel's criticism would strengthen ``the position of active military who reject the politicization of the armed forces at the service of a socialist government, a government that says that in a socialist state one can't be a non-partisan military professional.''
Chávez -- a former paratroop commander who was reelected last year -- denies the amendments threaten freedoms. He says the changes would expand democracy by empowering neighborhood-based assemblies.
''It's power for the people,'' Chávez told thousands of cheering supporters on Sunday. ``That's the essence of the constitutional reform.''
Human rights groups, the Roman Catholic Church and other critics say Chávez is seeking the changes in order to consolidate power, pointing to the proposed elimination of presidential term limits.
Some opponents of the government also warn that amendments allowing authorities to detain citizens without charge and censor the media during a state of emergency would violate civil liberties.
Baduel said the 69 reforms approved by the Chávista-dominated National Assembly last week are ``introducing changes in a fraudulent way . . . carrying along the people like sheep to the slaughterhouse.''
Among other changes, the reforms would create new types of property managed by cooperatives, end the Central Bank's autonomy and extend presidential terms from six to seven years.
But Chávez's former top general urged the public -- and soldiers in the military -- to ''deeply analyze the text,'' saying the changes go against democracy.
In a televised news conference, Baduel noted that it remains unclear what sort of socialism Chávez wants for Venezuela. And he urged the public: ``Don't let them take away power from you in a fraudulent way.''
El Nuevo Herald staff writer Gerardo Reyes contributed to this report.