Saturday, January 20, 2007

Venezuela's Road To Dictatorship?

It seems that Hugo Chavez, President of Venezuela, has gained a heck of a lot of power in recent days. It looks like Venezuela's National Assembly is going to give Chavez the power to rule by decree for 18 months, so that Chavez can make sweeping changes to the Venezuelan political system.

Now, this seems like a very strange move for a country that claims to be democratic to make. Especially since Chavez's political party, the Fifth Republic Movement controls 114 out of 167 seats in the National Assembly.

I can't see why any reforms in Venezuela could be done in the National Assembly - There is nothing to stop such a thing from happening.

This consolidation of power by Chavez makes no sense to me. It is not necessary. Unless of course, one wants to become a dictator. Remember, Hilter became all-powerful leader of Germany via legal means.

Now, I know many people who were looking at Venezuela with hope that it would become an example of socialism done right. I don't think it is going to happen.

Furthermore, I believe that we, as social democrats, democratic socialists, and democratic communists cannot support a government that is eroding the basis of democracy, no matter how much they conform to the "correct" ideology.

Therefore, I think it is time for progressive organizations that have endorsed the Hands Off Venezuela campaign to remove that endorsement as soon as possible. Why? Because they support this action of Chavez's that is attacking democracy.

I guess Lord Acton was right.

Update 1/20/2007, 7:42 pm:

Hands Off Venezuela's support for Chavez's actions, in case the link does something funny.

President Chávez: Nationalise Sanitarios Maracay!
Friday, 19 January 2007

We welcome the recent decisions of Venezuelan president Hugo Chávez to ask for an Enabling Law that will allow for the renationalisation of all privatised companies.

Update: 3/15/2007, 8:00 pm

I've moved to a new location, so I would ask that you please comment there. I've turned off comments here, but I've moved all of the comments there so that context is retained.



Idealistic Pragmatist said...

Wow. Looks like Chavez is in a huge hurry to do something. I just hope that something is something good, though like you, I have major doubts. How sad.

Robert McClelland said...

It looks like declaring yourself the deciderer is all the rage with democratic leaders these days.

Alex said...

Agreed. And actually, Chavez controls all 167 seats in the Assembly, making it even less necessary.

Sean S. said...

I would put myself into the lot that had hoped to see something good come from Mr. Chavez's time in power...however, this news is concerning, and as such I will have to re-evaluate my past support for his actions on the whole.

Peter Thurley said...

I 100%, wholeheartedly agree with you. I was opposed to the NDYC's endorsement and support for Venezuela and against their support of the the Hands Off Venezuela project. With these recent developments, I will maintain my opposition to these movements and will question, when possible, the NDP's support (whether explicit or implicit) of the burgeoning Venezuelan dictatorship.

Canadian Atheist said...

I think you guys are taking CNN a little too seriously!

First, we have to put this in it's historical context. This is nothing new in Venezuela. Venezuelan presidents have often been given this power with a specific mandate. In fact, this isn't even the first time that Chavez has done this.

Second, these powers aren't nearly as far reaching as the media is making it seem. Chavez has been granted the power to rule by decree, specifically in the area of the economy, for a period of 18 months. Anything he proposes can be overturned by the assembly. The assembly can remove this power at any time.

This is a non issue people!!!

Why is it needed then? Because in the middle of a revolution (which is the process taking place in that country at the moment) actions need to be taken swiftly. The capitalist class is doing everything they can to maintain power. For example, during the recent food shortage (artificially created by big business) the government learned of a major meat producing company that was hording food. They were holding warehouses full of food, simply to break the price controls and raise prices. Chavez expropriated this food.

That could not have been done through the assembly. The moment a bill was introduced, giving them warning, a private security force would have been moved in. Then it would have been a hell of a mess.

The fact that the masses are solidly behind Chavez and the corporate elite is doing everything they can to bring him down, should be enough to make you stop and think twice about this.

Or you can side with Fox News.
It's up to you.

Northern BC Dipper said...

If this is such a non-issue, then why are your writing a comment months after I written the post?

And, I think this this issue is a little more complex than "siding with Fox News".

So you say there is a revolution happening in Venezuela. The question is, what kind? A socialist revolution, or another dicatorship that uses the term and embrasses real socialists everywhere?

There is a reason why democracies use the rule of law and that there is a separation of powers (approved by the Venezuelan nonetheless), but unfortuntately, Chavez seems to be sliding in the other direction.

Julian Benson said...

Your post really does sound like CNN in that it ignores several facts that are very, very important for the understanding of the situation. The "Rule by Decree" is fully legalized by the 1998 constitution that was written through constituent assemblies by the people of Venezuelan and passed through referendum. But this same provision was present in the previous constitution.
This rule by decree has been used multiple time before by multiple Presidents. Here a few examples:
1974 - President Carlos Andres Perez
1984 - President Jaime Lusinchi
1993 - President Ramon Jose Velasquez
But what's the difference between Chavez's and these other President's use of this amendment? The main difference is another part of the constitution that Chavez helped bring into the country in 1998 and that is the "right of recall". That's the amendment that allows the immediate recall of any elected official from President on down through the democratic will of a majority of the constituents. Chavez himself went through a recall referendum in 2004 which Chavez won handily with 58%. The amendment still very much applies to all elected officials. Meaning that, and this is very important in case you guys are going to throw the dictator word around some more, Chavez can be removed be legally removed by the Venezuelan people at anytime through the constitution.
Given all these facts and the fact that Chavez has recently won re-election by 63%, not to mention the growing levels of worker's control and the empowerment of the Communal Councils for a new grassroots, participatory democracy show the democratic credentials of the Venezuelan Revolution.
But here one more for good measure. This is SECOND time Chavez has used the rule by decree. In 2004 the National Assembly voted him these special power so that he could speed up the introduction of a wide ranging series of social programs, the now famous Missions, that eliminated literacy in Venezuela (only the 2nd Latin country recognized by the UN as having done so), provided health free health care to millions and reduced those living in poverty by fully 10%.
So exactly where does the dictator part come in?

Julian Benson said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Anonymous said...

If we look at the facts, what we see is ... quite the contrary! People in Venezuela actually participate in the decision-making process. Firstly, Chavez was elected by a popular vote and all the seats he controlls in the Assembly were granted to him by the people of Venezuela. Secondly, he urges the people to involve themselves more and more with politics. Thirdly, he supported the workers who occupied the factories and took the mananagement into their own hands! How is this dictatorship? Venezuela is an example of XXI century socialism and we must support and defend the socialist experiment Chavez is trying to conduct.

Dylanius Maximus said...

I'm sick of the reduction ad Hitlerum that is constantly invoked by the enemies of the Venezuelan Revolution. I don't see Chavez invading his neighbours and killing civilians. Which government in the Western Hemisphere has been playing that role for the past hundred years or so? Hmm, maybe the same government that has been trying to orchestrate the subversion of the Revolution for the past nine years. Ruling by decree would be a very bad thing if Chavez decreed something bad. However, our own corporate and political leaders decree things all the time and nobody calls them on it. It is important for New Democrats to stand behind the genuine socialist workers in Venezuela and support every positive reform, social program, nationalization or factory occupation that occurs there. Otherwise, we are just mindlessly parroting the agenda of George Bush, Pat Robertson and the two parties that we run against in every Canadian election.

Adam Fulsom said...

There is several things about the supposed "rule by decree" that CNN leaves out. First of all, the new constitution, which was widely approved through a referendom, gives citizens the power to repell any law which is passed by collecting signatures and bringing it to a nation wide vote. They can also collect signatures of only a small percentage of the population to call a referendom on the presidency as well. This makes Venezuela more democratic then Canada. The fact is that the majority of Venezuelans support the "rule by decree" because they want things to change now and are sick of the hold ups that the beurocrats create. Chavez is doing what the people want, so if you call that a dicatorship then I dont know what a democracy is.

Adam Fulsom
Leeds-Grenville NDP Youth Officer

Northern BC Dipper said...

Hi all,

You don't mind if we move the commentaries to the new blog?

NBC Dipper