New Charter Shuns ‘Savage Capitalism’
President Hugo Chavez says a new constitution drafted by an assembly packed with his allies would distance the world’s No. 3 oil exporter from “savage capitalism.” Chavez, a left-leaning nationalist, has alarmed investors at home and abroad with frequent attacks on the free-market economic model. The Venezuelan charter will be put to a referendum Dec. 15. Business groups and opposition politicians say it will discourage foreign investors. But Chavez, whose anti-establishment and anti-corruption message is highly popular with Venezuelans, described it as “marvelous.” He said later that he was dropping his proposal for a national vote ratifying him as Venezuela’s president and instead called for an open presidential election early next year. He had come under fire from critics who said his proposal to add a question to the referendum was a ploy to extend his grip on power. If the question were approved, Chavez’s term as president would be increased to seven years from the five years he won in December, partly because of changes in the new constitution.