[JURIST] Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez [BBC profile; JURIST news archive] proposed comprehensive constitutional reforms Wednesday, asking the National Assembly [official website, in Spanish] to debate measures that will extend the presidential term from six to seven years, eliminate the limit on the number of terms a president may serve, bring the currently independent Central Bank under the control of the government, and give the government greater authority to expropriate private property without court approval. Critics have accused Chavez of seeking to further consolidate his power, while Chavez has defended his proposal as democratic because it will allow the Venezuelan people to keep their president in power as long as they like.
In July, Chavez sought to reassure Venezuelans that the constitutional reforms will protect private property rights [JURIST report], and threatened to expel [AP report; Union Radio report, in Spanish] any foreign nationals who publicly criticized Chavez or his government. Chavez won re-election last December and was granted the power to enact laws by presidential decree [JURIST report] until mid-2008. He has pushed for "revolutionary laws" to nationalize sectors of the economy including mining, telecommunications, utilities, and the petroleum industry. The new proposed constitutional reforms must be approved by the National Assembly and then receive popular backing in a national referendum. AP has more.