Hugo Chavez has won a referendum in Venezuela, abolishing the term limits that would have forced him out of office after the end of his current 10 year term in 2013.
Was the referendum conducted honestly? We may never know. But Simon Romero of the New York Times noted some of the apparently legal means used by Chavez to remove a barrier to becoming presidente for life:
Mr. Chávez threw the weight of institutions controlled by his supporters, including the National Assembly and the entire federal bureaucracy, behind the proposal. Petróleos de Venezuela, the national oil company, and CANTV, the national telephone company, were among state entities that mobilized employees to campaign for the measure. ...
In the last days before the vote, life in this capital city seemed to shift into slow motion. Public offices shut down so government workers could attend rallies in favor of the proposal. Restaurants and bars obeyed an edict prohibiting liquor sales.
Mr. Chávez also tried to assert control over the activities of diehard supporters who attacked opposition-controlled institutions in recent weeks. Claiming last week that one group that supports him, La Piedrita, had been infiltrated by the C.I.A., he ordered the arrest of its leader, Valentín Santana.
Hat tip: Ed Lasky