Home > International > Venezuela’s Road To Dictatorship?

Venezuela’s Road To Dictatorship?

January 20, 2007

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.

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Categories: International
  1. Idealistic Pragmatist
    January 20, 2007 at 3:03 pm

    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.

  2. Robert McClelland
    January 20, 2007 at 5:03 pm

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

  3. Alex
    January 21, 2007 at 1:52 am

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

  4. Sean S.
    January 22, 2007 at 12:03 am

    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.

  5. Peter Thurley
    January 26, 2007 at 4:17 am

    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.

  6. March 15, 2007 at 6:54 pm

    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.

  7. March 15, 2007 at 6:55 pm

    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 dictatorship 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 unfortunately, Chavez seems to be sliding in the other direction.

  8. March 15, 2007 at 6:56 pm

    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?

  9. March 15, 2007 at 6:57 pm

    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.

  10. March 15, 2007 at 6:58 pm

    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.

  11. March 15, 2007 at 6:59 pm

    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
    Fightback

  12. March 15, 2007 at 6:59 pm

    Hi all,

    I’ve moved all your comments here, so you can continue with the proper context.

  13. Northern BC Dipper
    March 15, 2007 at 7:27 pm

    My, this reminds me of Conventions, where the far left spout out propaganda from Hands of Venezuela ad infinitum.

    It gets boring there too.

    Meanwhile, I rather work to move Canada in the correct direction, and that won’t work by copying Venezuela, which has a different history and political culture than Canada does. And, I rather do it the democratic way, thank you very much.

  14. Jim Mullaly
    March 16, 2007 at 12:40 am

    The process taking place in Venezuela is inspiring to say the least. I would say that never in this countries history have the general population been so involved. The strengthening of communal power at the expense of traditional oligarchic power, the factory occupations leading to nationalization and workers control.

    I sure hope we’ve learned the lesson the mainstream media teaches us every day ie: we can’t trust it. Apparently the BBC, CNN and what have you, don’t see it a valid enough point to explain that any one of those Law Decrees can be blocked by either the National Assembly or the population at large through the means of collecting just 5% signatures in order to put it to a referendum.

    If you close your eyes to the process taking place, all that’s left is to squabble about technicalities that aren’t even being properly presented. It’s too easy to sit in our comfortable Canada and bitch about it, yet the Venezuelans want none of it. With every passing moment they see the possibility of introducing democracy into their economies! What good is the National Assembly when all the real power is in the hands of the millionaires and billionaires?

    I say break the power of the capitalists, forward to a democratic plan of production in which the Venezuelan masses will for the first time, have the chance to plan the direction of their social and economic lives.

  15. adam
    March 16, 2007 at 1:45 am

    in all due respect N. bcdipper, it is quite clear your feelings on this matter have been more than debunked and handed back to you by our friends from Hands off Venezuela. It is quite clear you don’t have a strong grasp on the matter at hand, while many of those you disagree with do. It is clear you have dodged their arguments that debunk your claim only to make new unsubstantiated arguments against Chavez. In the future leave shitting on the revolution of a democratic nation to the right-wing media. The respectful action would be to admit your error in judgement based on your previous ignorance and resist commenting onVenezuela in the future unless you do your homework. You’re not the first person to jump inot waters over your head, only to realize you cant swim…we’ve all done it, but dont be too stubburn to askfor the life preserver. I’m sorry if i’m coming on strong, but arguing for the sake of arguing tends to piss me off a little.

  16. canadian athiest
    March 16, 2007 at 5:30 am

    “Meanwhile, I rather work to move Canada in the correct direction, and that won’t work by copying Venezuela, which has a different history and political culture than Canada does.”

    Agreed!

    But it is also important to educate the public about events in Venezuela. We need to prepare for the inevitable imperialist attacks against the
    That revolution sure didn’t start as a socialist one, but it looks like that may be where it finishes.revolution. This is especially important considering the billions of canadian dollars that are invested there. Canada has, so far, played a terrible role in Venezuela.

    But there are many lessons we can learn from Venezuela (even though, as you say, it has a different history and political culture). For example, all history teaches us that if we do get into government and try to actually change anything, we’ll be met by sabotage and hostility from the ruling class. This is something we need to prepare for.

    The only way to break their power is by nationalizing the big industries under democratic control. That’s the lesson they’re learning in Venezuela.

    I don’t think the socialist transformation of society will happen here in the same way as it will in Venezuela. But we can learn the general lessons from Venezuela (and all past failed revolutions) and apply them to the present situation in Canada.

  17. canadian athiest
    March 16, 2007 at 5:32 am

    Strange formatting issues in that post! It should read like this…

    “Meanwhile, I rather work to move Canada in the correct direction, and that won’t work by copying Venezuela, which has a different history and political culture than Canada does.”

    Agreed!

    But it is also important to educate the public about events in Venezuela. We need to prepare for the inevitable imperialist attacks against the
    revolution. This is especially important considering the billions of canadian dollars that are invested there. Canada has, so far, played a terrible role in Venezuela.

    But there are many lessons we can learn from Venezuela (even though, as you say, it has a different history and political culture). For example, all history teaches us that if we do get into government and try to actually change anything, we’ll be met by sabotage and hostility from the ruling class. This is something we need to prepare for.

    The only way to break their power is by nationalizing the big industries under democratic control. That’s the lesson they’re learning in Venezuela. That revolution sure didn’t start as a socialist one, but it looks like that may be where it finishes.

    I don’t think the socialist transformation of society will happen here in the same way as it will in Venezuela. But we can learn the general lessons from Venezuela (and all past failed revolutions) and apply them to the present situation in Canada.

  18. Northern BC Dipper
    March 16, 2007 at 12:33 pm

    Adam,

    but arguing for the sake of arguing tends to piss me off a little.

    Really? Because I think that dragging up a post from 2 months ago and commenting on it now in instead of when it was all over the Blogosphere is the very definition of arguing for the sake of arguing. Kinda cowardly too, but I guess all of the HOVers who have been blinded by Chavez’s charisma don’t want too many people at the same time critically pointing out the ugly points of their dear leader.

    That, my friend, really pisses me off.

  19. canadian athiest
    March 16, 2007 at 6:08 pm

    I’m sorry that your blog wasn’t noticed by anyone from HOV until now.

    I would have made my arguments against your position two months ago, had I seen them.

    But the fact that this erroneous information has been floating around the net for two months is even more reason to answer you now.

    So, if that is your only argument, you can drop it. By the way, what is your argument? Your positions have been pretty handily dispelled.

    As for us being “blinded by Chavez’s charisma”, you couldn’t be more wrong.

    We’re not just cheerleaders for Chavez. The campaign is in solidarity with the bolivarian revolution, not just chavez. The most important thing happening in venezuela isn’t happening in government, it’s happening in the streets. Millions of down trodden people have taken their destiny into their own hands and have entered the political arena. This is the definition of a revolution. This is what we’re building solidarity with.

    In the past the HoV campaign has actually been critical of Chavez at times. For example, Chavez’s alliance with Iran is a very bad idea. This is one of the most reactionary regimes on the planet and Chavez has forged a strategic alliance with it.

    We have also placed several demands on Chavez. For example, the few factories that have been nationalized in Venezuela were nationalized after the workers occupied them and HoV launched solidarity appeals to bring the issue into the spot light. Both Venepal and Inveval were brought into public ownership in this manner and now we have a similar appeal for the nationalization of Sanitarios Maracay. http://www.handsoffvenezuela.org/chavez_nationalise_sanitarios_maracay!_2.htm

    So your accusations of us being blinded by chavismo are completely unfounded. We are not into hero-worship. We’re here to defend the bolivarian revolution.

    I ask you now to reconsider the position you have put forward, or answer our arguments.

  20. adam
    March 17, 2007 at 1:51 am

    to be honest i didnt even note how long ago you wrote this story. someone sent me the link over a listserve and i decided to contribute. In contributing to your blog i am helping you out, am i not? Do you not write so that others can share in your opinions and particpate with them?

    Cowardly? ok….?

    the knee-jerk personal attacks don’t come across very well, especially when you don’t back them up with arguments. Avoiding people’s arguments altogether doesnt come across as strong. Putting down your brothers and sisters that are only trying ot better inform you on the matter at hand is not what we are about in the NDP i know and love. you only discredit yourself with this approach.

    I have never aided the HOV campaign, and i dont agree with all their points, but i do respect their work and solidarity with Venezuela. One can agree to disagree with another member’s viewpoints and refrain from typecasting a diverse group of people. In doing the opposite you employ the same logic as Rascists, Agists, Sexists, and so forth. I would hope that in the future you could better serve our party and greater movement by making your case without lowering yourself to these standards.

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