Venezuela’s vale of tears


August 15, 2007, will go down as a black day for Venezuela. On Wednesday night, the person ruling the country spent five hours ten minutes giving an exposé of his proposed constitutional “reform.”

By dint of amending only 33 articles of the Constitution, this black August augurs the dimming of the democratic state and the transformation of the very essence of Venezuela’s political, economic and social system.

There is a point that needs clarifying before going any further, and that is that the proposed reform submitted by Chávez is unconstitutional, since the fundamental principles of the Constitution may only be altered by a Constituent Assembly.

The proposed changes announced by the President brought few surprises, as many of them had already been revealed in a document leaked to the media. But now Chávez has made it crystal clear where the country is headed.

Basically, these changes will concentrate the political and economic power even further in the hands of the President (however impossible this may seem) and give him almost total control over social aspects.

1) His “new geometry of power” will in effect abolish decentralization, and local power will be exercised from Miraflores at the President’s discretion. Mayors and governors will be silent guests kowtowing to the boss’s orders.

2) They will eliminate what is left of the Central Bank’s autonomy and leave the administration of the country’s reserves to the President’s whim.

3) The notion of private property will be jettisoned. Any asset of any kind will be liable to expropriation at any time. All it will take is for the Executive to claim that it is “affected with a public purpose” or in “the social interest”; and what is more the Executive would have the power to “occupy it” immediately.

Among the few surprises were:

1) “Immediate” reelection for a seven-year term, instead of six as at present, so making Chávez’ term in office not merely indefinite or continuous but eternal!

2) Reduction of the working day to six hours. One of Hugo Chávez’ trademarks has been his fondness for repeating the failures and errors of others. Here is a clear example, as this measure is similar to one that caused havoc in the French economy.

Now it’s the turn of the “redder than red” National Assembly to lay into the Constitution and democracy. There is no doubt that, in three months’ time, the parliamentarians will raise their hands to a man to approve the proposed reforms (possibly with a cosmetic change or too, just to go through the motions).
Unless a miracle occurs (a remote possibility), on December 9, Venezuela will enter the orbit of the socialist-totalitarian republics with a Chávez eternally ensconced in the seat of power. There is no opposition leadership on the horizon with sufficient grassroots support or credibility nor is there an independent electoral agency to prevent this destruction of the Republic.

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