Chavez Appeals for Calm After Defeat

The Venezuelan people voted down a referendum to allow President Hugo Chavez to run for reelection indefinitely. The voting was close, and Chavez is saying he'll respect the results.

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It's Monday, December 3rd, and I don't want to overstate the importance of playing ping-pong on this show…

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BURBANK: …against one of our hosts. But clearly, it's working for Michael Huckabee. He is leading in Iowa.

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BURBANK: And then he - we have this little, like, kind of pretend the ping-pong table in the BPP bullpen. And he came out and played ping-pong against me. I won't spoil it by telling you how it ended. But, anyway, Mike Huckabee, wow. Well, we're going to talk politics with Jim Vandehei. Also, we're going to talk to somebody in Iowa coming up this hour about what this all means.

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BURBANK: …because we don't want to…

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BURBANK: …sound like - but I sure love the guy - Bill Wolff. He's going to be here to talk sports. And we're going to have Korva Coleman with today's headlines in just a moment. She is coming to us from Washington, District of Columbia.

First, though, we've got the BPP's Big Story.

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STEWART: Hugo Chavez asked, and the people answered.

King JUAN CARLOS (Spain): (Spanish spoken)

BURBANK: Okay. That wasn't actually a Venezuelan voter. That was King Juan Carlos of Spain earlier this month, telling Hugo Chavez to be quiet - but not using be quiet, using another word.

Venezuelan voters, though, sort of echoed that sentiment yesterday when they narrowly defeated a series of constitutional changes that could have extended President Chavez's grip on power indefinitely. It was the first electoral setback for the president during his nine years in office.

STEWART: Okay. Among the 69 changes in the ballot: one, Chavez asked voters to extend the presidential terms from six to seven years, two, to eliminate term limits. All of this would allow him to keep running for reelection as long as he lives. Now, the current term expires in 2012.

BURBANK: Chavez addressed Venezuelans last night after the votes were counted, and he appealed for calm.

President HUGO CHAVEZ (Venezuela): (Through Translator) I was faced with the dilemma. But now I'm calm, and I hope all Venezuelans are remaining calm at this time.

STEWART: All right. He was seeking reforms that would have created a new type of communal property, allowing him to handpick local leaders under a redrawn political map, shorten the standard work day. Chavez described the final vote as really, really close.

Pres. CHAVEZ: Final de fotografia.

STEWART: A photo finish. And you know what? He was actually right. Voters defeated the two big measures that would have changed the Constitution. The no votes: 50.7 percent on one measure, and 51 percent on the other.

BURBANK: A disappointed Chavez supporter, Nellie Hernandez, a 37-year-old street vendor, told the Associated Press, quote, "It's difficult to accept this, but Chavez has not abandoned us. He'll still be there for us."

STEWART: Meanwhile, the opposition leader, Leopoldo Lopez, hailed the results, saying, quote, "The reform was about democracy or totalitarianism socialism, and democracy won.

BURBANK: In a sense, Chavez agreed. He said the results should show the world that democracy is alive and well in Venezuela. And he told reporters, quote, "There is no dictatorship here."

STEWART: That is the BPP Big Story. Now, here's NPR's Korva Coleman with even more news.

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