On Saturday thousands of people marched in the Venezuelan capital to support the "No" option on the February 15th referendum regarding a constitutional amendment promoted by the government which would permit unlimited reelection.
Shouting "No is no," the demonstration, organized by the main opposition parties and student leaders, traveled about 18 kilometers from Petare, in eastern Caracas, to the end of Libertador Avenue, in the center of the city, according to AFP journalists.
"I support 'No' because I do not want the President’s term to last beyond 2012. He wants to monopolize everything, and we need to give other people the opportunity," said Rolando Gonzalez, a worker who lives in Catia, a populous region to the west of the Venezuelan capital.
Luisana Blanco, a young working mother, expressed her rejection of the unlimited reelection "because we realize that we cannot continue on this path, and we must unite, for we are all Venezuelans."
"President Chavez has been governing for 10 years and hasn’t done anything, and we have no jobs and no security," complained Jesus Alvarado, who came from the state of Guarico (center) to support the march.
The demonstration was guarded by 2,500 police officers and had no incidents of violence.
Opposition leaders acknowledged the gesture of President Hugo Chavez, who had spoken on the phone yesterday with one of the demonstration’s leaders to encourage him to “march peacefully.”
"Yesterday, for the first time, the President made a gesture of unity while leading the country (...) and said that today there would be no violence; and there was no violence today. This shows that the violence starts there, because we want a Venezuela of love, peace, and progress," said Manuel Rosales, the mayor of Maracaibo, who ran for president in the 2006 elections.
The government supports the modification of five articles of the Venezuelan Constitution of 1999, which would make President Hugo Chavez and all politicians eligible for reelection indefinitely.
The opposition has described the initiative as "backward" and an excuse for President Hugo Chavez to perpetuate his term and to concentrate more power in his hands.
Their leaders pointed out that the issue of indefinite reelection has already been included in a bill to amend the Magna Carta, which was spearheaded by the government and rejected by referendum in December 2007.