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Allan Brewer-Carias, a former Venezuelan legislator and an opponent of President Hugo Chavez, says the referendum held on Sunday that overturned term limits on Chavez and other public officials will strengthen the country's authoritarian strain. But the result, he said, also showed nearly half the country disapproves of Chavez's government. He says even though Chavez controlled the media and used pressure on officials and recipients of public support to vote "yes" in the referendum, there still were 5 million people voting "no."
Venezuela had a referendum on Sunday, and the results of 54.4 percent for the amendment to the constitution and 45.6 percent against seemed to be a strong victory for President Hugo Chavez, who wants to change the constitution so that he can run for as many terms as he wants. What was your general impression of this referendum?
First of all, I don't consider it a 'strong victory.' The referendum was approved by six million votes, and the 'no vote' obtained five million votes, so it was not a strong victory. It was a very close victory. The closest difference in percentage in Venezuelan elections in ten years---except for the last referendum, which was an exception. This is a very important fact, because that means that the opposition has been growing, and these supporters of Chavez have been diminishing.
Will this referendum result send the country towards a dictatorship? We are already in a totalitarian government. So we are adding one aspect, one new aspect to a framework that the country and the government has been constructing, during the past 10 years. We have a country where there is no check and balance, no separation of powers at all. The executive controls the assembly, and through the assembly it controls the Supreme Tribunal, the attorney general, the prosecutor general, the defender of the people, the comptroller general. So all the branches of government are completely controlled, and the power concentrated in the executive. e are already in a totalitarian regime. But democracy is not only elections. Democracy is a lot more than elections. It is check and balance, it is pluralism, it is the respect of human rights, freedom of expression, and a lot more aspects that are in, for instance, the Inter-American Democratic Charter. So we are already in a totalitarian regime, and this is one step more that will allow the people who are governing to continue in government, to be reelected, using without limit the resources of the government in order to obtain reelection. And this is then one step more in this process of consolidation of an authoritarian regime.
Mr. HOYER (for himself, Mr. BERMAN, Mr. SENSENBRENNER, Mr. SABO, and Mr. PALLONE) introduced the following joint resolution; which was referred to the Committee on the Judiciary