By Jeremy Morgan
Latin American Herald Tribune staff
CARACAS – Venezuela's National Electoral Council (CNE) formally confirmed Friday that a referendum would be held on February 15 on President Hugo Chávez' proposed constitutional reform aimed at removing a ban on successive re-election.
The deadline conforms exactly with the timetable proposed by the president in his bid to submit himself for re-election when his current, second term expires in 2012. At present, the Constitution limits elected officials to no more than two terms in succession.
CNE President Tibisay Lucena said that the board had met as planned on Friday and voted in favor of the referendum. The board had also accepted the wording of a question put forward by the National Assembly asking voters to decide on changes to five Articles of the Constitution.
The campaign for the referendum would formally start on Saturday and close on February 13, two days before the vote, Lucena added.
Officials said that 6.7 million had put their signatures to a petition submitted by the Assembly in favor of a referendum. The rules require that referendums require support for a fifth of the registered electorate.
The decision by the five members of the board at the CNE was not unanimous. CNE Director Vicente Díaz abstained, afterwards pointing out that Article 6 of the Constitution stipulated that Venezuela's government should "alternate" in power.
A recent spate of demonstrations by students against the reform plan came under fire from Interior and JusticeMinister Tarek El Aissami. The minister, who earlier this week branded students opposed to the proposed change as "fascists," claimed the demonstrations were aimed at "destabilizing" the country and making it ungovernable.
Despite the continuing flood of brickbats from El Aisami and other government figures, as well as clashes with the National Guard and other security forces, student groups have continued to stage protests. Student leaders have vowed that they will not be deterred from expressing their opposition to the planned constitutional change.And Here is the Referendum Question that the National Assembly and Electoral Authority Set:
Do you approve of the widening of the political rights of Venezuelans in the terms contemplated in the amendment to articles 230, 160, 174, 192 and 162 of the Constitution of the Bolivarian Republic of Venezuela, processed by the National Assembly, which allows people to run for all positions of popular election in such a way that their election will be the exclusive expression of the vote of the people?
which is a loose translation of:
Â¿Aprueba usted la ampliacion de los derechos politicos de las venezolanas y los venezolanos en los terminos contemplados en la enmienda de los articulos 230, 160, 174, 192 y 162 de la Constitucion de la Republica Bolivariana de Venezuela, tramitada por la Asamblea Nacional, al permitirse la postulacion para todos los cargos de eleccion popular de modo que su eleccion sea expresion exclusiva del voto del pueblo?