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Venezuela parliament debates constitutional amendments on presidential power

[JURIST] The Venezuelan National Assembly [official website] on Wednesday debated a set of proposed amendments to the constitution, including reforms that would eliminate presidential term limits and augment the president's emergency powers. In August, the proposed amendments passed a preliminary vote [JURIST report] in the Assembly; after the current round of debates, the constitutional reforms will be subject to a national referendum on December 2. The Assembly has already passed 33 amendments, and Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez [BBC profile; JURIST news archive] proposed 25 additional amendments on Tuesday. These include provisions allowing the president to declare an indefinite state of emergency, lowering the voting age from 18 to 16, reducing the working day to six hours, and prohibiting discrimination.

Chavez has touted the proposed changes as necessary to advance the socialist revolution in Venezuela [JURIST news archive]. Human Rights Watch [advocacy website] warned that the proposed amendments would violate international law [press release] by allowing the president to suspend due process guarantees during times of emergency. Members of the opposition party have accused Chavez [JURIST report] of using the constitutional reforms to consolidate his power over Venezuela. The National Assembly is overwhelmingly comprised of Chavez supporters, as opposition parties boycotted elections in 2005. The Guardian has more. El Pais has additional coverage, in Spanish.

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