Venezuela is taking steps to turn into a “communal state” that substitutes the “neoliberal and bourgeois” model, by transferring power to neighborhood organizations that nevertheless will depend on the designs of president Hugo Chávez.
The Government and the National Assembly, dominated by the chavismo, are fine tuning a package of laws that enable from social property — which has generated doubts about its co-existence with private property — to the possibility of altering the political and territorial organization and division of work.
But analysts warn that even though the idea of “empowering” the people is valid, the ways to do it could end up subyugating it to the orders of the “presidente comandante”, subtracting political protagonism.
Chávez has managed to concentrate more and more power during the eleven years of his “revolution”, has increased the presence of the State in the economy, and for months has boosted legislative changes to anchor his so-called “21st Century Socialism”, a project of blurry principles, according to analysts.
“We’re trying to change the structure of the bourgeois, neoliberal, bureaucratic State that ignores the needs of the many”, recently said the Minister for the Communes, Isis Ochoa.
The Minister admitted that the “socialist revolution” seeks to change the political system to cede public administration to the organized people. “Transfer all the competencies of the transformation of reality,” she said.
But government spokespeople have contradicted themselves while trying to explain if the communal State will end the descentralized power of mayors and governors, and existing institutions.
The opposition claims that the new organization substracts power from the voters of regional authorities, and that the law consacrates and privileges the socialist model and destroys plurality.
Chávez, meanwhile, claims that the “oligarchy” wants to scare the people by telling them that a communist dictatorship is coming, and that democracy is only possible in socialism and that capitalism is unfair and immoral.
Observers claim that the changes the Assembly would make through the communal laws are illegal because they contradict the constitution. But they think it’s difficult that the Supreme Tribunal will stop them because their decisions tend to favor the government.
Chávez has said that the power resides in the organized people, and years back he pushed the creation of “communal councils”, neighborhood organizations that not only tend to the needs of their neighborhoods but have also gains supervising roles in the areas of education, economy and judiciary.
Minister Ochoa says there are more than 30,000 legalized communal councils and that they can join together in “communes”, which would have advice from the Executive to designate spokespeople, write a Communal Charter, and organize a parliament.
According to the proposed organic law of popular power and participation, the “communal organizations” can act above institutions without limiting their decisions.
“The popular power is constituent power”, says the text of the law which must go to a second discussion before it can be passed.
The communes would have arbitration justice, a bank, barter markets, and a communal currency controlled by the Central Bank. They would also coordinate the “productive vocation” of its territory with the Federal Council of Government, an entity created this year and led by the vice-presidency.
That entity already has the faculty to dictate what each area of the country produces, a power that some sectors have denounced as an abusive intervention of the State in the activities of the private sector.
The opposition has warned about the risks of changing the political division of the territory, arguing that the communes would have discretinary financing from the Government, and that the governors and mayors would be forced to give up part of their budgets.
“The law doesn’t give more power to the people, it takes it away”, said Ramón Guillermo Aveledo, spokesman of the Democratic Unity Table of the opposition.
In any case, in the transition stage that would start with the apporval of the package of laws the traditional and communal models would co-exist, which many claim would be messy.
“There’s a duplication of the State, and in the institutions you can’t have duplication because they take away transparency and credibility, and all of that is necessary for society to function”, said analyst Claudia Curiel.
The opposition had to join the wave of communal councils that the government started years back and that it ardently protested. However, it maintained its cricitism of the government because they consider it has difficulted the legal organization of its representatives and the decisions they take.
“Every commune will have to register at the ministry”, said the mayor of Baruta, Gerardo Blyde, who was part of the opposition minority that took part in the creation of the 1999 constitution.
“Registering the communal councils has been an odyssey […], imagine what it will be like with the communes”, he said at a meeting of mayors of the capital, alerting about the law.
The subject, which has generated concern among analysts and the opposition, has been debated in the media, but it’s complicated that it will be at the center of the electoral campaign for the National Assembly on september 26.
“This is the first step to destroy the federal democratic established in the Constitution. It’s the first serious step by Venezuela, from the institutional and legal point of view, towards communism”, said the mayor of the capital district of Chacao, Emilio Graterón.
In Venezuela, governors and mayors are elected by direct, universal elections, while the communal organizations proposed in the new laws are named in citizen assemblies and decided by Chávez.
Do you want to know how much of a democrat Hugo Chávez is? This was all proposed in the constitutional reform of 2007, and the people voted against it with a resounding no. This is illegal any way you look at it.