Tonight we got the surprise announcement that tomorrow, as a provocation of sorts in commemoration of the 2004 referendum, as a way to make people forget about the 800 000 USD suitcase, because suddenly chavismo could not find anything else to talk about, Chavez decided to sped up the constitutional reform project. After all, his grand tour of LatAm checkbook in hand to buy a few “glory be!” has tripped over some airport suitcase.
In a way this suits me fine. I had jotted down a few notes as to what I thought Chavez would be presenting soon, but since we will be told tomorrow, why not wait. I will just list a few things without major comments and we will all decide how right my predictions were (note: see part 1 and part 2 of this series).
First, the real proposal, the only one that really matters to Chavez: indefinite reelection. That is, every six years he will be allowed to run, no term limit, each time with more power, with more psychological fatherly figure advantage. A recipe well tried by all the guys that tried that, even if they grossly faked the elections for that. All those coming of age after 2012 will have known nothing but Chavez in their conscious lives and will simply stay home or vote for Chavez because they do not know better.
As for the rest? Very simple: a series of change that are intended to 1) reinforce Chavez powers and 2) make sure that no one has access to enough power to launch a threatening bid against Chavez in any future election.
That is all. There is no need to discuss it. Just from that any democrat knows what to do: campaign against the reform, and if a vote takes place, vote NO.
Only parliamentarian systems have managed suspension of term limits in a successful and democratic way. Even there, long serving prime Minister were either suddenly booted out by the voters, or by their own followers. Ask Thatcher and Blair about that…… The reason is that in parliamentarian systems, the Prime Minister must constantly reassert his or her authority upon the party before s/he can even consider facing the voters. In such systems a prime minister is just a “primus inter pares”. All long lasting democratic presidential systems have eventually imposed term limits as the president of the Republic acquires an aura that can become quite dangerous.
So, let’s look at the other changes that will be offered by Chavez tomorrow night in a cadena that promises to last for hours.
Strengthening his power
Some measures will be designed to increase Chavez power. They will be, for example, economical. The Misiones will be integrated in the constitution to become mandatory. Amen of transforming a constitution into a mere law. This way Chavez will “institutionalize” a parallel public sector outside of normal ministries. In this parallel bureaucracy only Chavez appointees will flourish, ideology will be first and dividends will go mostly, when not exclusively to those that profess undying devotion to Chavez.
Other measures will be more political or brute force. For example the president will get even more control over the armed forces. Eventually in less than a decade, all officers in charge will have been formed in chavista schools or Cuban camps. This will be effected by Chavez near complete discretion as to who gets which promotion. The increased militarization of society, a military bound in allegiance to Chavez, will divide Venezuelan society into a group within the military structure and militia, and the civilians who will be second class citizens.
Other legal measures are sure to be added, such as modifying certain civil rights of the 1999 constitution such as article 350 to make civilian rebellion against abuse of power illegal.
Making sure that no one can mount a challenge
But what Chavez might be more scared of is the surge of some charismatic leader that could find some support when people eventually get tired of Chavez. Thus the other set of constitutional changes, the most important perhaps, are designed to make sure that no one can rise to any significant power position or even to notorious enough fame to launch a successful presidential bid.
The first one is to set term limits to any other public office. Governors and mayors will have only two consecutive terms at most. The excuse? Only national projects deserve unlimited time. We will pass on the absurdity and obviousness of that one.
But there is more. A “geographical redistribution” is planed. The only objective here is to create new administrative structures where the executive office master will be appointed by Chavez. Thus for example, the vote rich area of Caracas will be downgraded again to a federal jurisdiction which is a code word of less autonomy. Ask the folks of Washington DC about that…. The chutzpah of chavismo goes far enough to propose names such as special vice presidents to these super governors that will be above the locally elected folks.
But that will not be enough anyway. The advantage of creating a “socialist state” is to weaken private property as much as possible. So, weak governors whose resources form the sate will be siphoned in large part by super governors will not be able to raise electoral cash in their districts to the levels that the government will dispose from public administration. See the last December election for a preview. The only capitalist that will be allowed to exist and to finance whichever candidates it feels should be elected will be the state. Other candidates will have to scrap with small donations given by anonymous donors as the political list system existing now in Venezuela will discourage most form allowing their name to be used.
Still, to make sure it works, another tool will be created: the communal councils will be given constitutional rank. That way mayors will be weakened in turn. The theory here is that communal councils deal directly with Caracas. And thus ultimate decentralization becomes the ultimate tool for centralization as only communal councils controlled by red shirts will get anything done. Not to mention that communal councils will be much easier to intimidate than municipal council or state legislatures. At the level of communities debate will be public and it will be very easy for local chavistas to detect, to decide who is and who is not pro-Chavez. The totalitarian implications of this are staggering.
And thus, if the constitutional “reform” passes it will be the official death certificate of Venezuelan democracy. Because, in addition to all of these ways to curtail democracy Chavez in fact admits he is not a democrat. He admitted the other day that he wanted to become the next Fidel Castro. Does that mean that he will eventually dispense with the formality of fraudulent elections?
But it gets better, today Chavez said the following:
"the interests of the Venezuelan opposition, all of it, without exception, are in lockstep, aligned with the interests of the North American Empire. Thus their role to criticize."
That is right, Chavez said it, by criticizing his proposals in this blog I am serving the US interests and I am a traitor to Venezuela. It is astounding that Chavez these days let's himself go to say such inane things. Truly, a man blinded by his hate.
Can anything be done? Stay tuned.