Europe South Asia Asia Pacific Americas Middle East Africa BBC Homepage World Service Education
BBC Homepgaelow graphics version | feedback | help
BBC News Online
 You are in: World: Americas
Front Page 
Middle East 
South Asia 
From Our Own Correspondent 
Letter From America 
UK Politics 
Talking Point 
Friday, 19 November, 1999, 13:17 GMT
New constitution for Venezuela
The assembly spent three months debating the issue

By Central America correspondent Peter Greste

Venezuela's constitutional assembly has finished drafting a new body of laws after months of controversial debate.

The assembly has effectively dismantled every branch of government and the judiciary since its election three months ago, pledging to replace them with the world's most advanced constitution.

Voters are expected to accept the draft in a referendum next month, despite fears from critics that it will create an authoritarian state and frighten away investors.

The old system was blamed for squandering the nation's vast oil wealth and for creating one of the world's most corrupt and inefficient governments.

The new constitution is a key part of reforms promised by President Chavez
Now the new constitution is finished. It has almost 400 articles and a host of detailed provisions protecting human rights, the economy and the judiciary.

Supporters of President Hugo Chavez, who masterminded the new document, say it is a modern draft which is a major step towards rebuilding democracy.

But the critics say it is badly written and unwieldy. They believe it concentrates too much power in the presidency and that it creates an unworkable economic system.

Among its key articles are an extension of the presidential term from five to six years, and the right for the leader to run for immediate re-election.

The document scraps the senate that creates the post of vice president, and it gives the military greater autonomy.

Pensions for the poor

It also tightens state control of the strategic oil industry, limits the central bank's autonomy and guarantees a state pension for all.

Economists and businessmen are worried about these last provisions.

One independent analyst, Michael Rowan, said the constitution guarantees that the state will support the poor, but that it doesn't give it the means to pay.

He also said it is a return to the days of state-run economies that will scare off foreign investors and stifle economic growth.

E-mail this story to a friend

Links to more Americas stories

Search BBC News Online

Advanced search options
Launch console

See also:
05 Nov 99 |  Americas
Venezuela votes to extend presidency
04 Nov 99 |  Crossing continents
Venezuela's quiet revolution
27 Aug 99 |  Americas
Analysis: Popularity based on reform promise
27 Aug 99 |  Americas
Chavez: Hero or demagogue?
06 Aug 99 |  Americas
Venezuelan president demands longer term
25 Jul 99 |  Americas
Venezuelans back Chavez

Internet links:

The BBC is not responsible for the content of external internet sites
Links to other Americas stories are at the foot of the page.