Chavez Threatens Opponents
Jul. 24, 1999
CARACAS, Venezuela (AP) _ On the eve of Sunday's nationwide elections, President Hugo Chavez threatened to prosecute his political opponents for spreading ``false political propaganda.''
Venezuelans vote Sunday on a constitutional assembly. Whichever party wins the majority will have six months to write a new constitution.
Opposition leaders say rewriting the constitution is part of Chavez's plan to impose a military dictatorship in Venezuela. They also say they are alarmed by Chavez's repeated statements that the 131-member assembly should dissolve both Congress and the Supreme Court even before completing its task of rewriting Venezuela's constitution.
But Chavez said Venezuela's two traditional parties were engaged in ``a last desperate campaign'' to secure a place in the assembly. He has ordered an investigation into ``electoral crimes to change the way people will vote with false political propaganda.'' He also said certain opposition candidates are posing as members of Chavez's coalition in an effort to fool voters.
Chavez's leftist Patriotic Pole coalition is expected to win a majority of the assembly. Chavez took office February after leading of a violent coup attempt in 1992. Polls released this week put his approval rating above 75 percent.
Venezuela's two traditional parties _ the center-right Copei and the center-left Democratic Action _ once enjoyed nearly complete control of the government. Now they are barely participating in Sunday's vote, except for backing opposition candidates running as independents.
Some 11 million of Venezuela's 23 million people are eligible to vote in Sunday's election. The 1,171 candidates include Chavez's wife, brother and five former ministers who resigned from the Cabinet to run.
Once written, the new constitution will be voted on in another national election early next year.