What happened
Students in Venezuela stepped up their protests ahead of a Sunday referendum on President Hugo Chavez’s attempt to scrap term limits on his rule and assume broad new powers. Polls show support for the proposals falling, but analysts expect it to remain popular enough to pass. (The Christian Science Monitor)

What the commentators said
Venezuelans can either vote “No,” said The Miami Herald in an editorial,or “accept the sweeping loss of political and economic rights that a new constitution will bring.” Fortunately, the students have “galvanized the opposition,” but “voters will have to show up in large numbers to stop the power grab.”

The poll numbers suggest that Venezualans are finally realizing that Chavez’s “international hostility is in their best interests,” said The Dallas Morning News in an editorial. Over mere weeks, Chavez poked the U.S. by urging OPEC to adopt anti-dollar policies, froze relations with Spain because its king told him to shut up, and started a verbal feud with President Alvaro Uribe in neighboring Colombia. Let’s hope a “sound defeat” on Sunday will teach him a lesson in “self-restraint” he “badly needs.”

Calm down, said Venezuelan diplomat Angelo Rivero Santos in the Los Angeles Times (free registraiton). This is not a referendum on establishing a “dictatorship,” as critics claim. The proposals would “speed the redistribution of natural resources” to the needy, and decentralize political power. Besides, what could be more democratic than letting the people decide whether to reform the constitution?