If there was such a thing as a Do-It-Yourself Dictator Kit, Hugo Chavez would be following the instructions closely and doing it by the numbers.
A top general and former Chavez ally spoke out against the strongman's attempt to change the constitution in an effort to bring about his Socialist Paradise. More on this from CNN"
An ex-general who helped President Hugo Chavez through an abortive coup against his leadership in 2002 publically broke with the president Monday over proposed constitutional changes.Though the National Assembly is overwhelmingly pro-Chavez, large segments of the population are not swayed. There were protests both against the proposed changes and Chavez.
Approval of the proposed changes "would in effect finalize a coup d'etat, brazenly violating the constitution," former Defense Minister Raul Baduel said at a news conference. "The Venezuelan people should categorically reject this fraud."
Venezuela's pro-Chavez National Assembly on Friday overwhelmingly approved a package of 69 changes to the 1999 Constitution. The changes would institutionalize Chavez's bid to implant a new model of development -- called "Socialism for the 21st Century" -- in the country while strengthening the power of the executive to rule by decree. It would also change electoral rules and allow a sitting president to seek unlimited re-election -- grandfathering Chavez into that system.
Watch VIDEO of Protesters in Venezuela.General Baduel had some words of warning about his former comrade and the proposed constitutional changes.
Baduel, who was Chavez's defense minister and military general in chief until July, became the highest-profile former military official to criticize Chavez's constitutional designs. He targeted his stinging criticism on how the changes would concentrate power in the executive.Baduel most likely regrets the help he gave his former buddy to both install him in power and, after Chavez was ousted, to help return him to power. Especially troubling must be Baduel's assistance in ridding the Army of anti-Chavez officers--officers whose help could be used about now.
"Constitutions are born precisely to limit the power of governments and to protect citizens from the abusive exercise of power, guaranteeing their rights and liberties," Baduel said. "They shouldn't do the opposite."
"Any Constitution that removes the limits on power should be viewed with suspicion," he continued, calling on "on all Venezuelans to vote 'No'" when the changes are put to a public referendum in December.
Baduel's harsh criticism -- and the public nature of his break with his former comrade in arms -- was a sharp counterpoint to their previous relationship.
The two came up through the officer corps together as both military and philosophical brothers in arms: Baduel participated with Chavez in his 1992 coup attempt against President Carlos Andres Perez, but escaped being cashiered from the army because his role in the plot didn't come to light.
Then, as commander of the 42nd Airborne Brigade in Maracay, Baduel's support was critical in helping overturn the abortive coup d'etat in 2002 that briefly unseated Chavez -- and opened the way for Chavez to strengthen his grip on power by moving to clear dissident officers from the military and put the opposition on the defensive.
Hugo Chavez met recently met with ailing Cuban dictator, Fidel Castro, and apparently picked up some tips for constructing his socialist state in Venezuela. He can add these tips to his instruction sheet of the Do-It-Yourself Dictator Kit.
To the people in streets opposing him, they can only hope that "batteries are not included".
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