AFTER 1- Latin American leaders seek `forever’ presidenciesAugust 16th, 2009 - 2:33 pm ICT by IANS
By Franz Smets and Helmut Reuter
Sao Paulo/Mexico City, Aug 16 (DPA) Many democratically elected Latin American presidents are reluctant to relinquish office as their terms draw to a close. In an effort to remain president “forever”, they have resorted to changing constitutions and forcing referendums to extend their time in office.
The reasons cited are usually nobel. The Bolivarian Revolution of Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez is one he envisions as a long-term project - it’s about 21st century socialism, with the lofty aims of ensuring economic independence, the equal distribution of revenue and an end to corruption.
Chavez insists, of course, that this cannot be achieved overnight. It could take a few years, even decades, and therefore many terms as president. To this end, Chavez had the Venezuelan constitution changed in a referendum in February to pave the way for a president’s unlimited re-election.
Other leaders across Latin America - both left and right of the ideological spectrum - have also been unable to resist the temptation of tampering with the prevailing rules on re-election.
Honduran Manuel Zelaya, a conservative liberal who is not very popular among his own people, is the latest example of a leader striving to extend presidential term limits. Despite a lot of opposition, Zelaya sought a referendum to change the constitution and include the option of re-election. He was ousted in a bloodless coup June 28.
The same strategy has been used with some success in Bolivia and Ecuador, apart from in Venezuela. In fact, Venezuelans had in 2007 rejected the unlimited re-election of their president, but Chavez finally managed to get the proposal through.
As his motto puts it, simply: “Chavez is not leaving, Chavez stays.”
Chavez’s current mandate ends in 2013. But he has said that the third phase of his Bolivarian Revolution is set to last until 2019.
Fidel Castro, who led Cuba for almost half a century until he stepped down for health reasons in 2008, is Chavez’s model and political mentor. The communist island has a self-styled political system that is not considered to be democratic by generally accepted international standards.
In Nicaragua, President Daniel Ortega is also trying to prolong his time in office. While recently celebrating the 30th anniversary of the Sandinista Revolution, he let the cat out of the bag. Since he cannot win over Congress, Ortega has found an alternate, but familiar, path: A referendum, a new constitution and no term limits.
In case he cannot manage this in time, Ortega will seek a mandate as prime minister - a position that does not currently exist in Nicaragua - so he can stand for another presidential stint in subsequent elections.
As for conservative Colombian President Alvaro Uribe - a year before the end of his second mandate, he has proposed a bill to Congress that could well have been drafted in Caracas. It’s a referendum to change the constitution to allow Uribe a third consecutive term.
Uribe has done this before, as the Colombian constitution did not allow consecutive presidential terms when he took office in 2002.
The seat-clingers of Latin America resent Brazilian President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva, who has vowed to respect his country’s rules, which ban more than two terms in office.
“I am not seeking a third mandate,” Lula has stressed repeatedly. “I am and have always been against it. I think that the transfer of power is essential for democracy.”
- Honduras president arrested: Reports - Jun 28, 2009
- Colombian President Uribe to seek third term - Aug 12, 2009
- South American nations upset over US plans for Colombia - Aug 08, 2009
- Nicaraguan president defends Iran nuclear programme - Jan 12, 2012
- Honduran president forced to Costa Rica after coup - Jun 29, 2009
- Chavez denies getting medical checkup in Brazil - Aug 03, 2012
- 'Two more Latin American presidents will get cancer' - Jan 05, 2012
- Chavez gets green light for unlimited re-election - Feb 16, 2009
- Chavez to travel to Cuba for surgery - Feb 24, 2012
- Chavez in 'good health' after treatment - Jun 10, 2012
- Cancer once made Chavez consider leaving politics - Sep 05, 2012
- Juan Manuel Santos takes over as Colombia's president - Aug 08, 2010
- Chavez not to attend Americas summit - Apr 15, 2012
- Chavez says chemotherapy will make him bald like Yul Brynner - Jul 29, 2011
- Venezuela holds referendum on president term limits - Feb 15, 2009
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