Venezuela votes on president's reforms
Friday 17 December 1999
Over half the electorate, however, abstained from thelandmark national referendum on Wednesday. Supporters blamed the low voter turn out on torrential rains, which triggered mudslides north of the capital Caracas that killed 50 people and forced 120,000 to evacuate their homes. But some analysts believe that Mr Chavez's critics prefer to lie low while he consolidates his power.
During his campaigning, Mr Chavez denounced his opposition as members of a "rancid oligarchy", comprised of "degenerates" and "squealing pigs". When church leaders cautioned against some of the constitutional changes - which will empower the military, abolish the Senate, and even alter the country's name to the Bolivaran Republic of Venezuela - the former paratrooper said that they should be "exorcised".
Mr Chavez is calling for new elections early next year, and with the military now eligible to vote, he is expected to ride on his wave of popularity before economic realities begin to bite. As old institutions are scrapped and corruption rooted out, the rich are getting nervous. Since the left-leaning populist took office in February, the economy has contracted by 10 per cent and an estimated $4bn has left the country. While Mr Chavez boasts that his constitution "puts a brake on savage neo-liberalism", it also reduces the working week to 44 hours, curtails market forces and inhibits private initiative.
Extensive new pension benefits and universal free health programmes guaranteed by the new charter will be funded by state petro-dollars, but some economists warn that they will soon become an excessive financial burden. They worry that President Chavez, whose 1992 attempted coup was foiled, is grounding this "peaceful revolution" on class conflicts that will alienate investors.
Britain's top vet sparks controversy with call for ban on slashing animals' throats in 'ritual' slaughters for halal and kosher meat products
If you're horrified by a flame-roasted dog, you should be shocked at a hog roast
Poor 'live like animals' says Boris's privately educated sister after going on 'poverty safari'
Exclusive: Impact of immigrants on British workers ‘negligible’
Vince Cable: Teachers 'know absolutely nothing' about the world of work
Ukraine crisis: Russia pledges to 'retaliate against sanctions' as Ukrainian president says Crimea vote will not be recognised
- 1 International Women's Day 2014: The shocking statistics that show why it is still so important
- 2 Orgasm machine to deliver climax at the push of a button
- 3 Dear 'The Sun', breast cancer isn't sexy
- 4 Teacher shows sex tape featuring herself to pupils during class by mistake
- 5 Singapore sting: Sky-high prices are pushing locals to the edge of affordability
£12000 per annum: Inspiring Interns: A small but growing chain of boutique hot...
£12000 per annum: Inspiring Interns: The company works with Tier 1 FTSE 100 Ba...
£45 - 60k Per Annum: Charter Selection: Highly profitable leisure brand, marke...
£30000 - £50000 per annum + Highly Competitive Salary: Austen Lloyd: Residenti...