Upon his ascendency to power in 1999, Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez made it one of his first priorities to rewrite his nation’s constitution. Furthermore, one of the most insistent demands he made in his list of constitutional reforms was a name change: the ‘Republic of Venezuela’ would become the ‘Bolivarian Republic of Venezuela’. To Chavez, the change meant much more than a mere single-word attachment. It was a tribute, not only to the nineteenth century revolutionary leader Simon Bolivar, who had fought for Venezuela’s independence from the Spanish, but to his ideals and beliefs as well. These ideals and beliefs, what Chavez came to refer to as Bolivarianism, provided the foundation upon which the rest of the constitutional reforms were made. The military took on a more useful function in society. Rights, in a variety of forms, were given a wider base and were more comprehensively detailed in the new constitution. Democracy at the grassroots level was given an unprecedented amount of attention. The national goals outlined in Hugo Chavez’s 1999 constitution, and his government’s attempts at fulfilling them since, have provided a framework for social democracy in the 21st century.
From his early days in the military, Chavez had ‘begun to think about the need for the military to have a role in running the country’ (Levin 56). He would often quote Mao, who said, “The people are to the military as the water is to the fish” (Wilpert 50). Chavez’s new constitution reflects this unification of the two bodies. Articles 328 states that the National Armed Forces must hold a commitment to ‘active participation in national development’ (Venezuela). What this means is that, aside from the defense of the nation from foreign threats, the other ‘purpose of the military that amplifies the Chavez government’s concept of civilian-military unity is in assuring…the security of Venezuelans in... [continues]
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