NASHVILLE, Tenn. (BP)--Voters in Venezuela narrowly defeated a massive slate of constitutional changes that would have allowed President Hugo Chávez to run for re-election indefinitely and given him broad powers to implement his program of "21st-century socialism."
"This struggle is against the danger posed by leaving a person in power for a long time." -- Hugo Chavez' ex-wife
In a series of public appearances prior to the Dec. 2 referendum, Chávez' ex-wife, Marisabel Rodriguez, urged voters to cast their ballots against the proposals, which would have given Chávez the authority to implement social controls like those in Cuba or the former Soviet Union. "This fight is not against a single person," she told the Associated Press. "This struggle is against the danger posed by leaving a person in power for a long time."
The defeat "almost certainly heralds the beginning of the end of Mr. Chávez's Bolivarian revolution and its influence in Latin America," an editorial in The Economist magazine noted. "It was not so much Mr. Chávez who was defeated in the referendum, as his bankrupt philosophy. That is good news for Latin America, and especially for its poor."
Opponents of the proposal conducted public rallies that drew large crowds. Many individuals sported T-shirts bearing the slogan, 'Por que no te callas?" ("Why don't you shut up?") -– a retort Spain's King Juan Carlos made to Chávez in mid-November after the Venezuelan dictator repeatedly called former Spanish Prime Minister Jose Maria Aznar a "fascist."
"The king said what Venezuelans have wanted to say to Chavez's face for a long time," a 21-year-old student in Caracas told the Associated Press. "I'm wearing this T-shirt to protest everything bad that has happened in the country." Read More