Venezuela showing signs of rejecting Chavez grab

NY Times:

Three days before a referendum that would vastly expand the powers of President Hugo Chávez, this city’s streets were packed on Thursday with tens of thousands of opponents to the change. The protests signaled that Venezuelans may be balking at placing so much authority in the hands of one man.

Even some of Mr. Chávez’s most fervent supporters are beginning to show signs of hesitation at backing the constitutional changes he is promoting, which would end term limits for the president and greatly centralize his authority. Other measures would increase social security benefits for the poor and shorten the workday.

New fissures are emerging in what was once a cohesive bloc of supporters, pointing to the toughest test at the polls for Mr. Chávez in his nine-year presidency.

In the slums of the capital, where some of the president’s staunchest backers live amid the cinder-block hovels, debate over the changes has grown more intense in recent days.

“Chávez is delirious if he thinks we’re going to follow him like sheep,” said Ivonne Torrealba, 29, a hairdresser in the gritty Coche district, who has supported Mr. Chávez in every election since his first campaign for president in 1998. “If this government cannot get me milk or asphalt for our roads, how is it going to give my mother a pension?”

Both Mr. Chávez, a self-described socialist who has won elections by wide margins, and his critics say opinion polls show they will prevail, suggesting a highly contentious outcome. But departing from its practice in last year’s presidential election, Venezuela did not invite electoral observers from the Organization of American States and the European Union, opening the government to claims of fraud if he wins.

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Chavez has always had emotional opponents who can pack the streets while Chavez packs the ballot boxes. Will he cheat to win. I think so. His whole legacy is riding on this election. If he loses he is over and his commie revolution is over. Corruption in Venezuela has been rampant since he took charge and the dope dealers have turned it into a rout to the US and Europe. He is unlikely to give something like that up as well as his role as a bully.

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