Besides, with this announcement he wrecks Christmas season equally for chavistas and anti chavistas and thus he is starting on the wrong foot. He should have waited at least until December 26 to announce that. Now the only result is that the opposition will not go on vacation. Well, at least I hope.
Today I will prefer to discuss the legality of his announcement. Of course it is not legal, but when has that been a road block for chavismo? I am using the translation of the constitution as posted here, PDF format.
The first thing to understand is that the constitution is very clear stating that any article subjected to a "reforma" cannot be tampered with anymore until the end of a constitutional term. In Venezuela a constitutional term is a presidential term, because, let's face it, the only power that has ever mattered in Venezuela is the executive.
Artículo 345. [...] La iniciativa de Reforma Constitucional revisada no podrá presentarse de nuevo en un mismo período constitucional a la Asamblea Nacional.In other words the reelection cannot be introduced anymore until the next constitutional term that will start in January 2013. Of course, had the constitution not be written in such haste, the constitutional term of the National Assembly could have been written separately and thus in 2010 the new assembly could have again tried the "reforma". But again, we know that separation of powers was never Chavez objective.
Article 345: [...] A revised constitutional reform initiative may not be submitted during the same constitutional term of office to [of] the National Assembly. (note the deficient translation which uses "of" instead of the correct "to")
The constitution also carries a provision in its modification allowances:
Article 342: The purpose of constitutional reform is to effect a partial revision of this Constitution and replacement of one or more of the provisions hereof, without modifying the fundamental principles and structure of the text of the Constitution. [...]Any serious jurist in the world will tell you that from a two term limit to no term limit, and only for the president of a republic in a presidential system, changes the "fundamental principles and structure of the text" since it favors deliberately the president reach at the expense of the other powers, including the regional executives. Of course you all know by now that chavismo is bereft of serious jurists. Chavismo favors only the type of jurists that deal in loopholes. If you doubt it look at all the illegal trials against any opponent of the regime... Again, I am writing this just to make sure people understand the unconstitutional nature of what Chavez is doing, not to pretend that he can be stopped through a mere high court decision.
The silliness of using an amendment to get what Chavez could not get through a constitutional reform is also bunk! An amendment, the way it is presented in the constitution of 1999, is a minor change to the constitution. For example limit certain taxes, change the flag of the country or expand on a given civil right. It cannot even be used to limit a civil right!!! For that you need to go to a reform, if not a brand new constitution. Thus pretending that indefinite reelection can be obtained by an amendment is constitutionally mistaken: an amendment cannot supersede a constitutional reform. Note: he could use an amendment to EXTEND his mandate to 7 years, for example, but never to remove term limits.
In other words the only legal and constitutional tool Chavez has to extend his power beyond 2012 is a constitutional assembly, according to
Article 347: The original constituent power rests with the people of Venezuela. This power may be exercised by calling a National Constituent Assembly for the purpose of transforming the State, creating a new juridical order and drawing up a new Constitution.You may note yourself that a National Constituent Assembly need not write a new constitution, but it can alter it much deeper than what a "reform" would do. Thus Chavez has a perfectly legal way to get his unlimited election, if he played fair and legally. But that would require the election of a constituent assembly and after November 23 results what are the odds that Chavez would get a 2/3 iron locked majority in that Assembly, which by the way could start voting on other things that Chavez does not want to change.....
Again. The only thing Chavez wants is reelection becasue he knows that if he leaves power he will be subjected to all sorts of law suits, as well as his immediate collaborators who spent the best of the last 10 years looting the country for their own profit. And let's not even go into the human rights violations.... To this you can add that since he removed Jose Vicente Rangel from his entourage in December 2006 there has been no one courageous enough to try to temper Chavez ego which is reaching mental disorder proportions.
Chavez is right, he must try it now becasue as soon as the crisis finally hits Venezuela he will not be able to deliver the promises he made during this last campaign: 17 states to please on handouts alone is very difficult even when oil is at 100USD. And some of the states Chavez carried one week ago are not reliable at all, such as Lara. If the opposition keeps a cool head, remains united and plays its cards right it can win that battle and hit Chavez so hard that he might not be able to finish his term, preferring to resign on his own before seeing chavismo rebel after his defeat. Because they will do so in search of his heir...