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Venezuelan constitutional referendum, 2007

Venezuelan constitutional referendum, 2007
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Politics and government of Venezuela • Constitution • President • Hugo Chávez • Cabinet • National Assembly • Cilia Flores • Supreme Tribunal • Political parties • Bolivarianism • Bolivarian Revolution • Bolivarian Missions • Elections • Parliamentary: 2000 • 2005 • Presidential: 1998 • 2000 • 2006 • Referenda: 2004 • 2007 • 2009 • States • Administrative regions • Foreign relations • Foreign policy
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President Chávez voting A constitutional referendum was held in Venezuela on December 2, 2007 to amend 69 articles of the 1999 Constitution.[1] Reform was needed, according to Venezuelan President Hugo Chávez, to implement his socialist agenda; detractors said he was using the reforms to become a dictator.[2] The referendum was narrowly defeated, giving Chávez the first election loss of his nine-year presidency. University student protests and opposition from former allies helped fuel the defeat, but the referendum results and the 44% abstention rate suggest that support also waned among Chávez’s traditional base of Venezuela’s poor.[3][4] Chávez conceded defeat by saying "for now, we couldn’t" ("por ahora no pudimos"),[5][6] echoing the phrase he used after the failure of the February 1992 Venezuelan coup d’état attempt.[2][7]

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On August 15, 2007, Venezuelan President Hugo Chávez proposed an amendment to 33 articles of Venezuela’s 350-article Constitution. A constitutional provision allows the president, the National Assembly of Venezuela or a constituent assembly to ask for changes; reform should be approved by a national referendum.[8][9] The 1999 constitution was promoted by Chávez and adopted by popular referendum. The proposed constitutional reforms were needed, according to Chávez, to complete the transition to a socialist republic[10] and implement his socialist agenda; detractors said he was using the reforms to become a dictator.[11] The proposal was hailed by government supporters as "the start of a new era towards socialism", but Podemos, a pro-government party, expressed disagreement and claimed Chávez was seeking lifelong power.[8] Venezuela’s constitutional procedures require three debates before the National


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Venezuelan constitutional referendum, 2007

Venezuelan constitutional preliminary referendum results
Proposal A B Total valid votes Null votes Turnout Abstention Total registered voters[21] Assembly, in which all 167 seats are held by pro-Chávez parties, to reform the constitution.[8] The first debate was successfully held on August 21, 2007 and gave initial approval to the general purpose of the reform.[8][12] During the second successful vote on September 11, 2007, the National Assembly added amendments to the original Chávez reform proposal, again angering the Podemos party, which said that the National Assembly had infringed the Constitution.[8][13] The third vote on October 25, 2007 approved the proposal, enlarged from 33 articles to 69.[14] Final parliamentary approval for the referendum was given on 2 November 2007.[15] The final proposal included 69 constitutional amendments to be voted on in two blocks: 33 that were originally proposed by President Chávez plus another 13 articles introduced by the National Assembly (Proposal A) and 23 more reform articles proposed by the National Assembly (Proposal B).[10][16] Proposed changes included:[10][17][18] • abolish presidential term limits, allowing for indefinite re-election of the president (not allowed for any other political post), • expand social security benefits to workers in the informal economy, • end the autonomy of the central bank, giving control to the president, and place the president in charge of administering the country’s international reserves, • prohibit large land estates, while "allowing the state to provisionally occupy property slated for expropriation before a court has ruled",[17] • reorganize the country’s administrative districts and allow the president to control elected state governors and mayors by an Option Yes No Yes No Votes 4,379,392 4,504,354 4,335,136 4,522,332 8,883,746 118,693 9,002,439 7,107,225 16,109,664 unelected “popular power” dependent on the presidency,[19] reduce the maximum working week from 44 to 36 hours and reduce the workday from eight to six hours, lower the voting age from 18 to 16, increase the presidential term from six to seven years, allow the president to declare an unlimited state of emergency, prohibit foreign funding for political associations. allow public funding for political associations. ban discrimination based on sexual orientation.[20] % 49.29 50.70 48.94 51.05 98.68 1.32 55.89 44.11


• • • • • •

The proposal was narrowly defeated, 51 to 49 percent, in the first major electoral defeat for Chávez in the nine years of his presidency.[1] Chávez conceded defeat, saying, "I congratulate my adversaries for this victory", and "for now, we could not do it."[1]

Preparations for the referendum


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Venezuelan constitutional referendum, 2007
hope that they quit and let the Venezuelan people build their future in peace".[23] The U.S. administration of President George W. Bush hailed the defeat as a victory for democracy. Bush said, "The Venezuelan people rejected one-man rule. They voted for democracy." A National Security Council spokesman said, "We congratulate the people of Venezuela on their vote and their continued desire to live in freedom and democracy".[7] A State Department Undersecretary said, "We felt that this referendum would make Chávez president for life, and that’s not ever a welcome development. In a country that wants to be a democracy, the people spoke, and the people spoke for democracy and against unlimited power."[7] The Organization of American States Secretary-General José Miguel Insulza called the results of the referendum an "exemplary development" on the part of the Venezuelan government and people, saying that democracy in the Americas "passed a difficult test and emerged stronger, showing clearly its consolidation."[26] Reporters without Borders expressed hope that the result of the vote would end the "media war" in Venezuela.[27] The day after the referendum, financial markets were buoyed by Chávez’s defeat; Venezuelan bonds rose and the stock index in Caracas surged 4% following a year-to-date 24% decline.[28]

People wait in line to vote in Caracas
Source: National Electoral Council (CNE)[22]

In conceding defeat, Chávez insisted that he would "continue in the battle to build socialism".[23] Although two days later Chavez called "victoria de mierda" (shitty victory) to the results, further saying that "but already you are covering it (the victory) in shit".[24] Manuel Rosales, a 2006 Venezuelan presidential candidate, said, "Tonight, Venezuela has won".[1] Leopoldo López, a popular opposition mayor, said "Venezuela won today, democracy won today".[23] Latin American media responses included special reports that highlighted Chávez’s first electoral setback in nine years and his ethical acceptance of defeat.[25] According to a Mercosur press release, the general Latin American response was praise for the "democratic maturity" evidenced by the Venezuelan people. Brazil’s Foreign Affairs Minister, Celso Amorin, said "The president accepted the result in a very calm and elegant manner."[23] President Felipe Calderón of Mexico said Chávez had shown " ... enormous valor to admit such results".[23] Spain’s Foreign Affairs minister, Miguel Ángel Moratinos, said that "free expression of people’s sovereignty has been accepted by all sides including those who had promoted the referendum".[23] Nestor Kirchner, Argentine President described Chávez as a "great democrat".[23] A response characterized by Mercosur as "blunt" came from Cuban Foreign Affairs minister Felipe Perez Roque: "those who have organized plots to destabilize Venezuela, to abolish its democratically elected government and even attempt a coup against President Chávez are active and we

Continued plans for reform
Chávez said on December 5 that he intended to launch a second attempt to change the Constitution. According to El Universal newspaper, he said:[29] “ Watch out, US lovers, celebrate. You ” have no dignity anyhow. Where could you have it? I recommend you to administer your victory wisely, because we will launch a renewed offensive for the great constitutional reform. ... You have a second offensive left for the constitutional reform. I cannot say that we did not make it."

Responding to George W. Bush’s remarks, he said:[29] They say Chávez was blown away. Yes, but I moved not even a millimeter. Yes, I was blown away, but I


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am weaker not even a millimeter. Be worried, empire; be worried, unpatriotic oligarchy. Strike as many times as you want. But, beware! Do not provoke!

Venezuelan constitutional referendum, 2007
the proposed constitutional changes. "Tens of thousands" of "Yes" voters marched in Caracas after the referendum had finally been approved on November 2.[33] A November 7th riot at the Central University of Venezuela resulted in gunfire and several injuries;[34] footage was caught on tape.[35] In late November 2007, just days before the referendum, tens of thousands marched in Caracas for both the "Yes" and "No" votes.[36] An opposition politician estimated the crowd marching for the "No" vote at 160,000.[37] Protests were largely peaceful, and only one death has been reported.[38][39] Some of Chávez’s supporters expressed concerns and disagreement with his proposals to change the constitution. Many voters abstained in the vote, rather than cast a "No" vote against Chávez.[3][40] The student movement played a crucial role in consolidating this position[41] and in organizing numerous rallies.[37][42] The student movement has played a large role in the Venezuelan political process, having gained a prominent position during the RCTV broadcast license expiration protests.[43] Although the student movement is not limited to the opposition,[44] it has been the opposition students that have gained the largest support, in part because they are not officially affiliated with any political cadres.[3] After the election the student movement was awarded $500,000 from libertarian Cato Institute located in Washington, D.C. USA. [45] Raúl Baduel, former Minister of Defense and one of the four founding members of Chávez’s Revolutionary Bolivarian Movement-200, expressed his concern by describing the reform as "nothing less than an attempt to establish a socialist state in Venezuela ... [which] is contrary to the beliefs of Simón Bolívar and it is also contrary to human nature and the Christian view of society, because it grants the state absolute control over the people it governs".[46] Other leaders and former Chávez supporters who distanced themselves from the proposal were Ismael García, a deputy in the National Assembly, and Ramón Martínez, governor of Sucre State.[4] Marisabel Rodríguez, Chávez’s ex-wife, has called the proposed changes an attempt to achieve "an absolute concentration of power".[47]

During a press conference with the military high command, he expressed on Venezolana de Televisión the possibility of bringing the proposal back in "the same form, transformed or simplified" in a future referendum and the creation of the bolivarian militias by modifying the laws regarding the armed forces. He also described the opposition’s victory as "full of shit" and his defeat as "full of courage, valor and dignity".[30][31] A month after the referendum was defeated, Chávez named Ramon Carrizales to replace vice-president Jorge Rodríguez, who had been blamed by many Chávez supporters for the failed referendum.[32]


Chávez supporters hang a pro reform poster In November 2007, demonstrations arose in Caracas, Venezuela and six other cities over


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Venezuelan constitutional referendum, 2007

CIA allegations
Venezuela’s state television network broadcast coverage prior to the referendum of a memo written in Spanish, claiming it evidenced a plan by the C.I.A. to destabilize Chávez[40]—an allegation referred to as Operation Pliers. Chávez threatened to cut off oil exports to the United States if violence resulted from the referendum[48] and declared at his campaign’s closing that "whoever voted ’Yes’ was voting for Hugo Chávez, but whoever voted ’No’ was voting for George W. Bush". The U.S. has responded by calling the allegations "ridiculous"[48] and "a fake".[40] Independent analysts doubt the authenticity of the document, noting both the lack of an original document in English and that "the timing of its release is strange."[40]

Results by state

Results by state
Source: National Electoral Council (CNE)[22]



November 29 rally by the supporters of the "No" vote Polls from November saw very close results. In mid-November, a Hinterlaces poll found that 51% of decided voters supported the change, while Mecanálisis said 64% of decided voters would vote against reform.[49] A poll by Keller & Asociados concluded defeat for the proposal with 45% "No" to 31% "Yes" votes; about 65% of eligible people planned to vote.[50] A late-November poll by Datanalisis of 1,854 likely voters indicated 49% were opposed, with 39% in favor. Reportedly, some moderate Chávez backers were likely to vote "No"; it was the first Datanalisis survey to project a loss, contrasted with earlier surveys that showed a win for Chávez "amid low turnout and despite widespread skepticism of his proposal".[51][52]

[1] ^ Romero, Simon (December 3, 2007). "Venezuela Hands Narrow Defeat to Chávez Plan". New York Times. world/americas/ 03venezuela.html?_r=1&hp=&oref=login&pagewant Retrieved on 2007-12-03. [2] ^ Kofman, Jeffrey (December 3, 2007). "Tension, Then Surprise, Chavez Loses Reform Vote". ABC Global News. Entertainment/ story?id=3945080&page=1. Retrieved on 2007-12-03. [3] ^ Gould, Jens Erik (2007-12-03). "Why Venezuelans Turned on Chavez". Time. 0,8599,1690507,00.html?imw=Y. Retrieved on 2007-12-05. [4] ^ Romero, Simon (2007-12-04). "Venezuela Vote Sets Roadblocks on Chávez Path". New York Times. world/americas/04venezuela.html. Retrieved on 2007-12-05. [5] Matthew Walter and Helen Murphy. Venezuelans Reject Chavez’s Plans for Constitution (Update1). Bloomberg, December 3, 2007. Accessed on December 3, 2007 [6] (Spanish) Peregil, F (2007-12-03). "Venezuela dice ’no’ a la Constitución de Chávez". El País. articulo/internacional/Venezuela/dice/


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Venezuelan constitutional referendum, 2007

Results by state
State Amazonas Anzoátegui Apure Aragua Barinas Bolívar Carabobo Cojedes Delta Amacuro Distrito Capital Falcón Guárico Lara Mérida Miranda Monagas Nueva Esparta Portuguesa Proposal A Option Yes No Yes No Yes No Yes No Yes No Yes No Yes No Yes No Yes No Yes No Yes No Yes No Yes No Yes No Yes No Yes No Yes No Yes No Votes 21,076 10,971 206,826 246,657 70,761 44,936 324,745 288,897 118,198 93,166 202,767 181,929 367,532 411,622 65,210 41,914 28,505 18,251 392,489 432,251 136,038 135,337 132,490 94,539 284,726 296,603 132,979 160,657 422,811 542,799 160,096 116,532 69,495 88,799 169,499 99,207 % 65.76 34.23 45.60 54.39 61.16 38.83 52.92 47.07 55.92 44.07 52.70 47.29 47.17 52.82 60.87 39.12 60.96 39.03 47.58 52.41 50.12 49.87 58.35 41.64 48.97 51.02 45.28 54.71 43.78 56.21 57.87 42.12 43.90 56.09 63.08 36.92 Proposal B Option Yes No Yes No Yes No Yes No Yes No Yes No Yes No Yes No Yes No Yes No Yes No Yes No Yes No Yes No Yes No Yes No Yes No Yes No Votes 17,222 12,501 205,048 247,124 70,392 45,022 321,586 290,095 117,440 93,468 200,843 182,414 363,825 412,337 64,736 42,012 28,299 18,308 388,757 435,627 134,710 135,983 131,586 94,796 281,262 298,658 132,355 160,681 416,797 544,717 159,079 116,894 69,106 88,862 168,025 100,013 % 57.94 42.05 45.34 54.65 60.99 39.00 52.57 47.42 55.68 44.31 52.40 47.59 46.87 53.12 60.64 39.35 60.71 39.28 47.15 52.84 49.76 50.23 58.12 41.87 48.50 51.50 45.16 54.83 43.30 56.65 57.64 42.35 43.74 56.25 62.68 37.31


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Sucre Táchira Trujillo Vargas Yaracuy Zulia Yes No Yes No Yes No Yes No Yes No Yes No 125,494 120,214 169,171 227,156 139,657 85,011 68,629 53,465 97,736 88,647 472,462 624,790

Venezuelan constitutional referendum, 2007
51.07 48.92 42.68 57.31 62.16 37.83 56.21 43.79 52.43 47.56 43.05 56.94 Yes No Yes No Yes No Yes No Yes No Yes No 124,818 120,472 168,024 227,379 138,935 85,215 67,555 53,830 96,778 89,074 467,958 626,850 50.88 49.11 42.49 57.50 61.98 38.01 55.65 44.34 52.07 47.92 42.74 57.25

Constitucion/Chavez/elpepuint/ 20071203elpepuint_1/Tes. Retrieved on 2007-12-07. [7] ^ Bachelet, Pablo (2007-12-03). "Bush administration hails Chavez defeat". McClatchy Newspapers (The Kansas City Star). world/story/388018.html. Retrieved on 2007-12-04. [8] ^ "Understanding constitutional reform in Venezuela (a background)". Maldives Independent News Media. 2007-11-18. ARTICLE/1439/2007-11-18.html. Retrieved on 2007-12-04. [9] (Spanish) "Reforma de la constitución de la República Bolivariana de Venezuela" (PDF). National Electoral Council (Venezuela). elecciones/referendo_constitucional2007/ documentos/Reforma.pdf. Retrieved on 2007-12-04. [10] ^ "Q&A: Venezuela’s referendum". BBC News. 2007-11-30. 1/hi/world/americas/7119371.stm. Retrieved on 2007-12-04. [11] Kofman, Jeffrey (December 3, 2007). "Tension, Then Surprise, Chavez Loses Reform Vote". ABC Global News. Entertainment/ story?id=3945080&page=1. Retrieved on 2007-12-03. [12] "Venezuela lawmakers back reforms". BBC News. 22 August 2007. 6958030.stm. Retrieved on 2007-12-01.

[13] "Constitutional Reform Project is approved in its second discussion",, 12 September 2007. Retrieved on 2007-12-04. [14] "Chavez gets constitutional reform backing from Venezuelan Congress", Deutsche Presse-Agentur (, 25 October 2007. Retrieved on 2007-12-04. [15] "Venezuela assembly passes reforms". BBC News. November 2, 2007. 7076076.stm. Retrieved on 2007-12-01. [16] (Spanish) Gobierno Bolivariano de Venezuela (2007-11-02). AN presenta al CNE pregunta para referéndum. Press release. noticias/1/16436/an_presenta_al.html. Retrieved on 2007-12-04. [17] ^ "A glance at Venezuela’s referendum". The Associated Press (The Mercury News). 2007-12-02. nationworld/ci_7618001. Retrieved on 2007-12-04. Also available at CBS News [18] "US hails Chavez referendum defeat". BBC News. 2007-12-03. 7125689.stm. Retrieved on 2007-12-04. [19] "Defeat for Hugo Chávez: The wind goes out of the revolution". The Economist. December 6, 2007. displaystory.cfm?story_id=10251226. Retrieved on 2007-12-06. [20] articles/2005-6236.html


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Venezuelan constitutional referendum, 2007

[21] Aprobada infraestructura electoral para [30] "Presidente Chávez: "Vendrá una nueva el referendo del 2 de diciembre. National ofensiva" para reformar la Carta Magna". Electoral Council, 2007-11-08. Accessed YVKE Caracas. on December 3, 2007 [22] ^ (Spanish) Poder electoral ofreció noticia.php?1632. Retrieved on primer boletin oficial. National Electoral 2007-12-05. Council, December 3, 2007. Accessed on [31] (Spanish) "Presidente Chavez desmiente December 3, 2007 haber sido presionado por alto mando [23] ^ MercoPress (December 4, 2007). militar y reitera que insistirá en su Praise for Venezuela but Chavez proyecto". Globovisión. 2007-12-05. promises ’we will prevail’. Press release. news.php?nid=72946. Retrieved on 2007-12-05. Retrieved on 2007-12-05. [32] Jack Daniel, Frank (2008-01-03). [24] "Foreign media on the referendum". El "Venezuela’s Chavez reshuffles cabinet Mundo. 2007-12-06. after defeat". Reuters. 12/06/internacional/1196897757.html. worldNews/ Retrieved on 2008-05-21. idUSN0359066620080104?pageNumber=1&virtualB [25] "Foreign media on the referendum". El Retrieved on 2008-01-22. Universal. 2007-12-03. [33] James, Ian (2007-11-21). "Thousands Rally for Chavez’s Proposal". The 03/en_refco_art_foreign-media-onAssociated Press. the_03A1242319.shtml. Retrieved on article/ALeqM5hAyrGfE2007-12-04. ZWy2y7T2UdYkNsnzF65gD8T2DTP80. [26] "Insulza congratulates Venezuelan Retrieved on 2007-12-04. government and people". El Universal. [34] Sierra, Sandra (2007-11-08). "Gunfire 2007-12-03. erupts at Venezuela university". Associated Press (The Guardian). 03/en_refco_art_insulza congratulate_03A1242563.shtml. story/0,,-7060225,00.html. Retrieved on Retrieved on 2007-12-05. 2007-12-03. [27] "RSF hopes referendum to stop "media [35] (Spanish) "Varios heridos en la UCV por war" in Venezuela". El Universal. agresión opositora contra estudiantes". 2007-12-03. Venezuelan government. 03/en_refco_art_rsf-hopes referendum_03A1241999.shtml. noticia.php?988. Retrieved on Retrieved on 2007-12-04. 2007-12-08. [28] Lesova, Polya Lesova (December 3, [36] Strange, Hannah (November 30, 2007). 2007). "Emerging Markets Report: "100,000 march against Hugo Chavez Venezuelan bonds rally after Chavez reforms". Times Online. referendum loss". MarketWatch. world/us_and_americas/ story/venezuelan-bonds-rally-afterarticle2976631.ece. Retrieved on chavez/ 2007-12-01. story.aspx?guid=%7BD1EA2669-EA24-4725-9371-091CF53EA580%7D. [37] ^ "Students stage anti-Chavez rally". Retrieved on 2007-12-05. BBC News. November 30, 2007. [29] ^ "Chávez announces second offensive to reform the Constitution". El Universal. 7120133.stm. Retrieved on 2007-12-03. 2007-12-05. [38] "One person killed in demonstration in Venezuela". El Universal. 2007-11-26. 05/en_refco_art_chavez-announces sec_05A1247117.shtml. Retrieved on 26/en_refco_art_one-person-killed2007-12-05. in_26A1221039.shtml. Retrieved on 2007-12-06.


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Venezuelan constitutional referendum, 2007

[39] (Spanish) "Un muerto y 6 heridos [47] Orozco, Jose (December 2, 2007). "Exdurante protestas". El Universal. wife damns Hugo Chavez ‘coup’". The 2007-11-27. Sunday Times. 27/pol_art_un-muertoworld/us_and_americas/ y-6-herido_614711.shtml. Retrieved on article2983752.ece. Retrieved on 2007-12-06. 2007-12-03. [40] ^ Romero, Simon (November 30, 2007). [48] ^ Chavez urges reform for Venezuela. "In Chávez Territory, Signs of Dissent". BBC News, December 1, 2007. Retrieved New York Times. on 2007-12-03 [49] "Outcome of Venezuela’s Referendum world/americas/ Uncertain". Angus Reid Global Monitor. 30venez.html?_r=1&ref=world&oref=slogin. November 19, 2007. http://www.angusRetrieved on 2007-12-01. [41] Kraul, Chris (December 4, 2007). outcome_of_venezuelas_referendum_uncertain. "Chavez revolution takes hit in election". Retrieved on 2007-12-01. Los Angeles Times. [50] (Spanish) "Última encuesta de Keller & Asociados da ganadora opción del NO". printedition/front/la-fgGlobovision. November 23, 2007. chavez4dec04,1,3761151.story?coll=la headlines-frontpage. Retrieved on news.php?nid=71725&clave=a%3A1%3A%7Bi%3A0 2007-12-05. Retrieved on 2007-12-01. [42] "Students want referendum to be hold [51] "Poll says Chavez loses Venezuela (sic) on February 3, 2008". El Universal. referendum lead". 24 November 2007-10-23. 2007. world23/en_pol_art_students-wantarticle.php?yyyy=2007&mm=11&dd=24&nav_id=45 refere_23A1145717.shtml. Retrieved on Retrieved on 2007-12-03. 2007-12-05. [52] "Half in Venezuela Reject New [43] Nunez, Elizabeth (June 4, 2007). Constitution". Angus Reid Global "Venezuela Students Spur Protest Monitor : Polls & Research. November Movement". The Washington Post. 29, 2007. polls/view/29179/ content/article/2007/06/04/ half_in_venezuela_reject_new_constitution. AR2007060400216.html. Retrieved on Retrieved on 2007-12-03. 2007-12-08. [44] "Bolivarian students are marching to Chávez’s government headquarters". El • Forero, Juan (November 30, 2007). Universal. 2007-11-21. "Chavez Opposition Swells Ahead of Referendum". NPR. 21/en_pol_art_bolivariantemplates/story/ students_21A1209801.shtml. Retrieved story.php?storyId=16783086. Retrieved on 2007-12-08. on 2007-12-01. [45] "Venezuelan Student Movement Leader • Gould, Jens Erik (November 29, 2007). Awarded $500,000 Milton Friedman "Venezuela’s Fateful Coice". New York Liberty Prize". Cato_Institute. Times. 30/business/worldbusiness/ goicoechea/. Retrieved on 2008-11-01. 30chavez.html?em&ex=1196571600&en=d421aee741 [46] Raúl Baduel (December 1, 2007). "Why I Retrieved on 2007-12-01. Parted Ways With Chávez". New York • Gould, Jens Erik (November 29, 2007). Times. "Venezuelan President’s Power Extends to 01/opinion/01baduel.html?n=Top/ His Family". NPR. Opinion/Editorials%20and%20Op-Ed/Optemplates/story/ Ed/Contributors. Retrieved on story.php?storyId=16727303. Retrieved 2007-12-03. on 2007-12-01.

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Venezuelan constitutional referendum, 2007

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