Venezuela Ends Term Limits
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Venezuelan voters have approved a referendum that ends term limits for the president and all other elected officials. Fifty-four percent of those who took part voted in favor of the measure February 15.
The Washington Post, in its colorful fashion, stated the matter like this: "President Hugo Chávez persuaded Venezuelans today to end term limits through a referendum that allows him to rule far into the 21st century to complete his socialist transformation of this oil-rich country."
Chávez is already 54 years old. If he rules for another 20 or 30 years, "far into the 21st century," he'll be older than John McCain and won't remember how many houses he owns.
The Post went on to say that "Chávez took office in 1999 and has since amassed overwhelming control over virtually every government institution." This statement is a gross exaggeration, but reporter Juan Forero probably had to skip lightly over the truth to meet a deadline. He also failed to state that the referendum ended term limits for all elected officials and is likely to turn the National Assembly into a geriatric ward.
With only one exception, the major newspapers in Caracas always go well beyond the timid Post when expressing their contempt for President Chávez. El Universal stated that 54.36 percent of the voters "endorsed President Hugo Chávez's proposal to amend the Constitution in order to establish endless reelection of all elected officials."
In other words, from now on it's automatic. According to the Constitution, once you're in, you're in forever. That's how it works in the U.S. Senate. Why not do the same in Venezuela?
At El Universal, the Cold War never ended and never will. Consider the first sentence from an editorial called "Communism," dated September 09, 2008: "Venezuela is sliding down the steady slope toward the dictatorial communist life of Cuba."
Moreover, "The authorities insist that its iron-fisted rule reflects the will of the people. True, millions of Venezuelans appear to be going along with whatever the government demands out of fear, complacency or neglectfulness."
At this point, I feel the need to suggest that millions of Venezuelans may not really be fearful, complacent, or neglectful. I think that millions of people favor the policies of Hugo Chávez and the United Socialist Party of Venezuela (PSUV) because socialism has improved their lives.
In February of this year, the Center for Economic and Policy Research (CEPR) released a study of the first 10 years of the Chávez administration. Mark Weisbrot, Rebecca Ray, and Luis Sandoval wrote this report, which is called "The Chávez Administration at 10 Years: The Economy and Social Indicators." I'll list only a few of the details from this study.
"During the current economic expansion, the poverty rate has been cut by more than half, from 54 percent of households in the first half of 2003 to 26 percent at the end of 2008. Extreme poverty has fallen even more, by 72 percent."
"From 1998-2006, infant mortality has fallen by more than one-third. The number of primary care physicians in the public sector increased 12-fold from 1999-2007, providing health care to millions of Venezuelans who previously did not have access."
"There have been substantial gains in education, especially higher education, where gross enrollment rates more than doubled from 1999-2000 to 2007-2008."
"The labor market also improved substantially over the last decade, with unemployment dropping from 11.3 percent to 7.8 percent. During the current expansion it has fallen by more than half. Other labor market indicators also show substantial gains."