[JURIST] Venezuelan opposition party members on Thursday criticized proposed constitutional reforms [JURIST report] introduced this week by Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez [BBC profile; JURIST news archive], calling Chavez's proposal a blatant attempt to further consolidate his control over Venezuela. The proposals, which will extend the presidential term from six to seven years and will eliminate presidential term limits, will likely be approved by the National Assembly, and will have to be approved by a popular referendum. Julio Borges, leader of opposition party Justice First [party website, in Spanish], criticized the proposals as intended to further Chavez's "continuous re-election, re-election for life, [and] permanent re-election."
The proposed constitutional changes also seek to bring the independent Central Bank under the control of the government, and give the government greater authority to expropriate private property without judicial approval. In July, Chavez sought to reassure Venezuelans that the 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. Reuters has more.