by MONITOR
HUGO Chavez seldom goes out of his way to win friends and influence people - except, of course, those whose votes he wants at the ballot box -- and he has been insufferably rude to other heads of state on occasion. Nonetheless it hardly seems necessary to criticise him for seeking to change the Venezuelan constitution by popular vote so that he is not restricted to two terms of office. The Yes vote he obtained for the change last weekend was the second time he had asked the Venezuelan people and this time he got a clear mandate in a referendum that was pronounced as “free and fair” by electoral observers. Even so the approval he was given does no more than enable him to fight the 2012 election instead of having to stand down before it. It was not a vote for a President for Life. Before Chavez won his first election in 1998 Venezuela was a typical old-style South American country in which an incompetent and corrupt elite had ruled in their own interests for many years with United States approval. Such countries are not easy to reform but Chavez has succeeded in giving the poorer people of Venezuela a better life with access to medical, educational and other social services from which they were previously excluded. The country may not be a model democracy - Chavez is inclined to use a heavy hand with some of his opponents, especially in the media but with confidence from the referendum result he should feel able to concentrate on completing the social revolution he has already started.