The New York Times
November 30, 2008
CARACAS, Venezuela — Chafing at inroads made by his political opponents in regional elections last week, President Hugo Chávez said Sunday that he would seek changes to the Constitution that would lift his term limits, allowing him to run for indefinite re-election.
The move, which would have to be approved by a nationwide referendum, is expected to polarize this country further, coming a year after voters rejected a broad constitutional overhaul that included a similar measure.
“Chávez is not leaving,” the president said in televised comments. “Chávez is staying, and if God wants this and gives me life, I’ll be with you until 2019 or 2021.” Mr. Chávez, who has been in power for 10 years, is barred from running again when his current term expires in 2013.
He also described his newly elected opponents here in the capital and in several of Venezuela’s largest states as “fascists.”
Mr. Chávez said his proposal should be debated by his party, known by its initials as the PSUV, and by Venezuelan society.
“I give the PSUV and the Venezuelan people my authorization to begin the debate and take the steps necessary to obtain that constitutional amendment and re-election of the president,” he said Sunday. “I am sure that we will get it now.”
Mr. Chávez’s announcement came at a crucial time for his government, with challengers winning ground last week in areas like Petare, a sprawling patchwork of slums here in Caracas. Oil income is also plunging, limiting Mr. Chávez’s ability to widen the scope of his social welfare programs, known as missions.
Faced with intensifying problems like a jump in homicides and Latin America’s highest inflation rate, at more than 30 percent, Mr. Chávez is focusing on other political matters in addition to the re-election push. On Sunday, he requested that Colombia withdraw its consul in Maracaibo, Venezuela’s second-largest city, after accusing him of plans to destabilize the government.
The move came after state television here broadcast recordings reported to be of a telephone conversation between the consul, Carlos Galvis Fajardo, and José Obdulio Gaviria, a senior aide to President Álvaro Uribe of Colombia. In the conversation, Mr. Galvis referred to ways of working with opposition politicians elected to the mayoralty of Maracaibo and the governorship of the surrounding oil-rich state of Zulia.