[JURIST] Former Venezuelan Defense Minister Raul Baduel spoke out against the constitutional reforms pushed by Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez [BBC profile; JURIST news archive] on Monday, claiming that the proposed reforms would deprive the Venezuelan people of their power over the government and result in a virtual coup by the president. The proposed reforms, which were overwhelmingly approved [JURIST report] by the Venezuelan National Assembly [official website] on Saturday, would amend the constitution to eliminate presidential term limits and augment the president's emergency powers. Baduel said that the reforms would effectively legitimize a coup d'etat and that voters should scrutinize the measure with suspicion. In order to become law, the proposed amendments must pass a general referendum to be held on December 2.
Baduel has become the most prominent former official to oppose the amendments, prompting Chavez to pronounce him a traitor [El Universal report] and a pawn of the right. The reforms have also been criticized by groups such as Human Rights Watch [advocacy website; press release] and opposition politicians [JURIST report], whose boycott of the 2005 elections has eliminated them from the legislature. A long-time ally of Chavez, Baduel helped the president overcome a 2002 coup and joined Chavez in his 1992 coup against former President Carlos Andres Perez. When Baduel retired from the Ministry in July, he first hinted at his dissatisfaction with the "socialist revolution," warning that it must avoid the pitfalls suffered by countries in Eastern Europe and Asia that sought to implement similar governments. CNN has more. El Pais has additional coverage [in Spanish].