Chavez's referendum fails
It looks like it’s good that he lost. The “dictator for life” label one of the chages is getting is kinda silly, but there are other authoritarian moves. Says HRW:
However, this proposal would still allow the president to suspend other fundamental due process guarantees, including the presumption of innocence, the right to be tried by an independent and impartial tribunal, the right against self-incrimination, the right not to be convicted for a non-existent crime, and the right against double jeopardy. In addition, the proposal appears to allow for the suspension of the rights of a defendant to know the charges and have access to the evidence against him.
The suspension of the presumption of innocence, the right against self-incrimination, and other guarantees of a fair trial would be in violation of international law, which prohibits their suspension even in times of emergency or armed conflict.
The proposed changes would greatly enhance the president’s power to impose and maintain the states of emergency in which these basic rights could be suspended.
It would broaden the circumstances in which the president could impose states of emergency, to include not only “catastrophes,” “calamities” and “other similar situations,” but also cases where “a certain and imminent possibility exists for the occurrence of situations capable of originating catastrophes, public calamities and other similar situations.” This is of concern, because, as the UN Human Rights Committee has made clear, “not every disturbance or catastrophe qualifies as a public emergency which threatens the life of the nation” and would justify restrictions or suspension of protected rights.
The proposal would eliminate the existing time limits on states of emergency, leaving it entirely to the discretion of the president to determine when an “emergency” has ended. Under the proposed amendments, the president would still be required to seek congressional approval for an emergency decree (within an eight-day period), but would not need authorization to extend it. The proposal would also eliminate the power of the National Assembly to revoke the state of emergency.
Chavez seems to be constantly half a step away from claiming a U.S. coup is imminent and if he could convince the National Assembly to agree with his claims, he’d become essentially a dictator, with no constitutional way to stop him.
Mark seems pretty sure Chavez will be ousted in the near future. I’m not naive enough to think that’s not a possibility, but Chavez himself may beat us to it. He’s handling the loss well enough so far, but he does have an authoritarian streak. How much will he push and how much will the people of Venezuela take?
Certainly something to watch.