“Constitutional reform leads to dictatorship”

“A democratic president who has changed the Constitution twice can hardly be found in the world.”

ROBERTO GIUSTI

EL UNIVERSAL

In the opinion of lawyer Gerardo Fernández, a specialist in Constitution-related matters, government followers, including local governors, mayors, congresspersons and leaders of the United Socialist Party of Venezuela (PSUV), are at odds over the constitutional reform heralded by President Hugo Chávez because it runs counter to their interests. Fernández, the chair of the opposition’s committee on constitutional reform, claimed that a report issued by the Presidential Committee for Constitutional Reform involves replacement of the 1999 Constitution. “Principles, values and fundamental issues are being changed,” he said. In his view, such proposals for structural changes require a nationwide debate for the purpose of consensus.

Q: Is referendum a way to attain consensus?


A: More than that is needed. The content and drafting of the Constitution should be the output of a debate with the participation of the whole country, instead of anti-democratic imposition by the government. Any referendum to endorse the Constitution, following the legislative approval as the leader may wish, does not ensure a free vote in the face of the current National Electoral Council (CNE).

Q: Is it better to convene a constituent assembly?

A: Yes; otherwise there would be fraud on the 1999 Constitution.

Q: If the content and the procedure to approve the Constitution are anti-democratic, what do we have?

A: Neither a democratic nor legitimate reform.

Q: In that case, will a dictatorship be the result?

A: Absolutely. But also it will outlaw the government and a Constitution imposed by the government to keep the President in office. A democratic president who has changed the Constitution twice during his incumbency can be hardly found in the world. The only ones who did it were dictatorial and totalitarian rulers such as General Juan Vicente Gómez, and the Monagas brothers.

No turnover

“The change has been proposed for all posts set to represent the people, but the fact of the matter is the President’s indefinite reelection. Reelection of local governors, mayors and congresspersons is symbolic, because they will loose their powers. And mayors are doomed to demise with the advent of community councils. The President’s reelection endangers change-over, a basic principle contained in article 6 of the current Constitution, because institutional controls are implemented to remain in office indefinitely. After taking hold of all public branches, including CNE, the National Assembly (AN), the Citizen’s Power and the Supreme Tribunal of Justice (TSJ), the unbeatable character of the President-candidate will be shielded under the Constitution. In the western hemisphere there is not a single democratic Constitution that provides for indefinite reelection. In certain cases, it is restricted to one term, because this is the only way to prevent the historical evil of constitutional dictatorships. Political and generational turnover prevails. And securing it is the big task of democratic constitutionalism.”

Private property is dead

“The proposals collide with the fundamental republican principle of respect for private property with a social content. A shift is proposed with the creation of five types of property: social, collective, state, mixed and private property. It is just that the former four will be in the State hands, that is, the government’s hands. The State will be the big owner of the means of production and also of goods and services. In the meantime, private property will eventually disappear and individual property will be more and more restricted. We will be unable to hold shares in (major telecommunications company) Cantv or (No.1 power supplier) La Electricidad de Caracas. For its part, the government will be the food distributor, the butcher, the slaughterhouse owner, the farmer. In addition, it will be empowered to confiscate, with no indemnity, whenever individual property is not in the collective or third-party interest. Also, the State will be empowered to monopolize sectors and take up, exclusively, services or means of production. For instance, the State will be the only one entitled to manage telecommunications, food delivery or transportation. Supermarkets, telephone companies and small bus owners will be laid aside.”

Translated by Conchita Delgado

cdelgado@eluniversal.com

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