December 03, 2008
Hugo Chávez wants Venezuelans to pass a constitutional amendment that would allow him to seek reelection indefinitely.
CARACAS -- Hugo Chávez wants to remain president of Venezuela for life, and this week he began campaigning for Venezuelans to lift term limits so he can run for reelection indefinitely.
''The opposition will not stop our revolution!'' Chávez told hundreds of red-shirted supporters at a rally in Miranda state Tuesday night.
Chávez, 54, wants Venezuelans to approve an amendment to the constitution in February that would permit him to seek reelection in 2012 and every six years thereafter.
According to pollsters, two out of three Venezuelans would not support the measure, El Nuevo Herald reported Wednesday.
Chávez has insulted enemies and denounced capitalism as he's turned Venezuela away from the United States and toward Cuba, Bolivia and socialism. He's nationalized firms, taken an unfriendly television station off the air, given food subsidies to the poor and provided free studies for illiterates and high school dropouts in programs known as ``missions.''
During his 10 years in office, opponents have tried to force Chávez out with a coup attempt, a strike at the state oil company, a recall election and two presidential campaigns. All have failed.
His opponents can, however, point to one major success: Venezuelans defeated Chávez's first attempt a year ago to amend the constitution to end term limits.
This time he vows that he'll emerge triumphant.
''We have to do it,'' he told cheering supporters Monday.
Chávez then sang a new campaign jingle that began appearing on state television Tuesday: ''Uh, ah, Chávez no se va,'' or ``Chávez isn't going anywhere.''
Chávez has begun the reelection campaign a week after local elections in which his candidates won 17 of the 22 governor's races and 279 of the 335 mayoral races.
Opposition leaders have also claimed victory, however. Their candidates won Venezuela's three most populous states, as well as the two biggest cities, Caracas and Maracaibo.
A quick vote on the constitutional amendment means that Chávez and his supporters will remain in campaign mode. Poll numbers show that his popularity tends to drop after elections, when Venezuelans return to day-to-day problems: rampant crime, food shortages, chronic corruption and 35 percent annual inflation, the highest rate in Latin America.
Chávez's vast government programs are facing cutbacks in 2009, however, because of plummeting oil prices.
Oil provides 50 percent of the government's income and 94 percent of its export revenue, and Chávez's government budgeted for an oil price of $60 per barrel in 2009.
The price of Venezuelan crude has now dropped to $39.50 per barrel, and El Universal newspaper reported Tuesday that the government is receiving $115 million a day in oil revenue instead of the projected $174 million.