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People power in Venezuela

August 21, 2007

Re "Venezuela leader aims to scrap his term limit," Aug. 16

I read with interest your coverage of the constitutional reform process taking place in Venezuela and wondered why the procedures for approving a new constitution were hardly mentioned? As was the case with Venezuela's 1999 constitution, if the National Assembly approves it, the general public will be involved by voting on the final draft in a national referendum. This means that the majority of Venezuelans must be in agreement with the changes for a new constitution to be ratified.

Public involvement is certain to be high, as Venezuela has impressive voter turnout rates (75% in the last presidential election). Venezuelan citizens also have the right to rescind any new laws that are passed by petitioning to hold a national referendum. A referendum was organized successfully in this way in 2004, when the political opposition tried unsuccessfully to impeach the president. President Hugo Chavez approved this provision in the 1999 constitution allowing the citizenry to recall him midterm, which is testament to his commitment to democratic politics rather than a desire for power.

Olivia B. Goumbri

Executive Director

Venezuela Information

Office, Washington

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