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Venezuela rights activists slam Chavez over proposed constitutional reforms

[JURIST] Venezuelan human rights activists and church leaders Friday criticized new constitutional reforms [JURIST report] proposed by President Hugo Chavez [BBC profile; JURIST news archive] that they say would suspend legal due process and centralize power in an authoritarian presidency. The Venezuelan National Assembly [official website, in Spanish] is currently considering amendments to 25 different constitutional articles over and above changes already made to 33. One generally pro-government party, Podemos [party website], has characterized the latest reforms as unconstitutional because of the suspension of due process during state of emergencies. Rights activists claim that the due process restrictions violate the American Convention on Human Rights [text] and threaten the freedom of all Venezuelans.

Chavez has touted the proposed changes as necessary to advance the socialist revolution in Venezuela [JURIST news archive]. Human Rights Watch [advocacy website] has warned that the proposed due process amendments would violate international law [press release]. Members of the opposition 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. AFP has more.

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