Hugo Chavez is an ambitious man. The Fidel Castro acolyte is centralizing power in democratic Venezuela through censorship and nationalization as part of his 'Bolivarian socialist revolution' which he apparently aims to lead, caudillo-style, indefinitely.
But there is one thing standing in his way: term limits.
According to the Venezuelan constitution, Chavez' second and last six-year term will expire in 2013. He tried to overturn this pesky limit on his power in December 2007, but was rebuffed at the ballot box.
This week he called on supporters to gear up for yet another referendum. At least he is going back to the people; a month or so ago in New York City voters were not so lucky.
"We're going to achieve it," Chavez told supporters in Caracas last Sunday. "We're going to demonstrate who rules in Venezuela." Then the head of state and part-time recording artist sang out "Uh, ah, Chavez no se va." That is, "Chavez is not going."
We'll see. With mixed results in November's regional elections, inflation topping 30 percent and a plunging price of oil, his time as a popular leader may be running out. If democracy in Venezuela outlives Chavez, term limits may turn out to be the decisive factor.