Venezuelans go to the polls Sunday to vote in a referendum that would effectively decide whether their country becomes a Cuban-style dictatorship with their current strongman president, Hugo Chavez, playing the part of Fidel Castro.
Chavez is proposing 69 amendments to the constitution, itself only seven years old and largely written by Chavez, that would give him one-man control of the government and the economy.
In nine years, Chavez has had things pretty much his own way against a divided opposition. He easily won a second six-year term last year. But he may have overreached on this referendum. His opponents, including some of his former allies, have begun to mobilize, and passage is by no means a sure thing.
Chavez has grandiose dreams of creating a Latin American, even a global, alliance to thwart the United States. So far, he is little more than a loud-mouthed nuisance. But given unchecked authority over Venezuela’s oil reserves and his attempts to partner with Iran in world oil policy, he could do some harm to the world economy, not to mention the even greater inevitable harm to Venezuela.
For everybody’s good, especially their own, let’s hope the Venezuelans vote no Sunday.