It’s not clear to me in all the coverage of the vote on the constitutional reforms in Venezuela today if a fair vote is possible. This otherwise informative San Francisco Chronicle article, for example, does not address the issue. I’ll be following the vote on Venezuela News and Views.
The drama playing out today may put us in mind of Publius’s comments on the tortured history of free government in Federalist Number 9:
It is impossible to read the history of the petty republics of Greece and Italy without feeling sensations of horror and disgust at the distractions with which they were continually agitated, and at the rapid succession of revolutions by which they were kept in a state of perpetual vibration between the extremes of tyranny and anarchy. If they exhibit occasional calms, these only serve as short-lived contrast to the furious storms that are to succeed. If now and then intervals of felicity open to view, we behold them with a mixture of regret, arising from the reflection that the pleasing scenes before us are soon to be overwhelmed by the tempestuous waves of sedition and party rage. If momentary rays of glory break forth from the gloom, while they dazzle us with a transient and fleeting brilliancy, they at the same time admonish us to lament that the vices of government should pervert the direction and tarnish the lustre of those bright talents and exalted endowments for which the favored soils that produced them have been so justly celebrated.
From the disorders that disfigure the annals of those republics the advocates of despotism have drawn arguments, not only against the forms of republican government, but against the very principles of civil liberty. They have decried all free government as inconsistent with the order of society, and have indulged themselves in malicious exultation over its friends and partisans. Happily for mankind, stupendous fabrics reared on the basis of liberty, which have flourished for ages, have, in a few glorious instances, refuted their gloomy sophisms.
I hope it is not too late for the people of Venezuela to pull themselves back from the brink of utterly lawless tyranny.
UPDATE: I think it’s fair to note as John does above that the constitutional revisions promoted by Chavez would among other things make him a dictator for life and that it is misguided to use the word “reform” with respect to Chavez’s proposed revisions.
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