The Imminent Death of Venezuelan Democracy
The successor to the Venezuela’s socialist leader Hugo Chavez, who died over four years ago, Nicolas Maduro, has proposed a vote for a new constitutional assembly on this Sunday. Note that on July 16, 2017, there was a vote sanctioned by the opposition (to Maduro) Assembly, to ask Venezuelans if they wanted a new constitution. Even though there were many actions taken by the government to thwart this election, 7.6 million people voted in this country of 30 million people. About 98% of the vote was for no new constitution. Furthermore, people voted that the Armed Forces should enforce the constitution and that the National Assembly not be changed.
Notwithstanding how the majority voted, Maduro will continue with his quest to consolidate more power this coming Sunday. A sampling of what the new constitution bodes for the “Venezuelan democracy” is reported allegedly by a former Attorney General under Chavez, Luisa Ortega, as a conduit for a former member of Chavez’s Supreme Court:
- All schools will become public and curriculum selection and administration in general will be by the government;
- All private companies will become assets of the government and will be run by members of the military;
- All private property ownership will be dissolved and become assets of the government;
- The right to protest will no longer exist;
- The National Assembly members will be selected by Maduro.
- Presidential term will be for 20 years.
It took a while for the people of Venezuela to unify against the government under the auspices of MUD (Mesa de la Unidad Democratica), United Democratic Table. As such, when elections were held last, 67% of the seats of the National Assembly were filled with “the opposition”.
How will Maduro accomplish his quest to consolidate power? Besides the usual intimidation techniques, Maduro played a slight of hand technique. If people worked for a government company, e.g. PDVSA, the National oil company, they were encouraged to sign on for a new card, Carnet de Patria (Country Card). The “bait” was to allow such cardholders preferential treatment to buy food at government stores. Besides the national identification code, cedula number, there are two additional numbers on the reverse side of the card. When one goes online on the CNE (national elections council) web page, and enters all three numbers, one at a time, there are three votes that will be allowed, not one. Cute trick, huh?
So, Venezuelans are facing a stacked deck. Would the government do that? Let’s take a trip down memory lane. This is off the top of my head, so I apologize in advance if I am not totally correct on some details. Chavez was voted into power overwhelmingly in December 1998 and became president in February 1999. Oddly enough, this was seven years after his failed coup de etat. His first task was to call for a constitutional convention. Chavez was successful in convincing Venezuelans of the following (sample of key points):
- Presidential term limit was changed from one, five-year term to potentially two, consecutive six-year terms. A bone to the people was that if you didn’t like what the president was doing you could call for a referendum vote midway into his term, with signatures gathered (20% of the total votes from the initial election). Later Chavez changed this to an indefinite number of sequential terms, each of six years;
- Bicameral Legislature was dissolved and a new Unicameral Legislature (National Assembly) was to be formed;
- The Supreme Court was to be dissolved and a new, larger court was formed.
This was passed and Chavez said that now new elections had to be executed for the president and the new National Assembly. In August 2000 Chavez was re-elected president and a new National Assembly was formed (with a majority of Chavistas). As the mid-term approached, the opposition garnered the necessary number of signatures and more. The aura of the eve before submittal of the signatures to the CNE was festive with fireworks, music, dancing, you name it. When the signatures were submitted the next day, Chavez’s CNE said the signatures had been obtained illegally. After much legal wrangling, the voice of reason arose and a referendum election was planned for late 2004. And, oh by the way, since your signature was recorded by the CNE, you were blacklisted from government jobs or as a private contractor working for the government. Later you could get this “hickey” removed if you went through a government re-education program renouncing your angst against Chavez. My nephew elected to do this to be able to feed his family. Oh, and people would contact you prior to certification of the signatures asking you to remove your signature.
During this period, Chavez contracted a Venezuelan company based in Boca Raton, FL to produce computerized voting machines. As voters’ excitement remained high, they went to the polls in droves. President Jimmy Carter was there as an international observer to pass judgment on the fairness of the vote. Also, there were representatives of a famous exit polling company who performed similar exit polling for the anti-apartheid vote in South Africa, for example. Their results were 58% to remove Chavez. Oddly enough when the vote tallies were published, only 42% of the vote was to remove Chavez. Jimmy Carter sanctioned the vote as having been done fairly. Two PhDs in Computer Science from MIT and Princeton (if memory serves me right) said the “fix” was in: voter results sent to a local printer showed the actual vote, however, when the votes were sent to the main server, a “Y” became an “N” (simple binary logic). Chavez was re-elected in December 2010 by a slim majority. The voting games were less pronounced but it was obvious to Venezuelans. Many remained despondent. Others saw the corruption and became less “Chavista sheeple.” So, Chavez remained in power until his death in March 2013, leaving one daughter reportedly $4.5 billion for all his hard work for the people to stamp out corruption.
A new election for president was called for; Chavez’s ex-cell buddy while in prison for treason, a bus driver union organizer born in Colombia, Maduro, was elected president in December 2013 under the usual suspicious aura of vote tampering. Since his election, the economy has continued in a downward death spiral with Venezuela gaining the reputation of the country with the highest inflation in Latin America. Street protests continue daily, and Cuban hired thugs and others in the National Guard, police and military continued crackdowns on protestors. The “premio” (bonus) awarded to National Guardsmen to break into homes and arrest protestors is two rolls of toilet paper, two disposable razors, a bar of soap and a tube of toothpaste. This shows how desperate people are in this wretched place that once was the bright star of capitalism in Latin America.
Why have there been protests for months on end and protestors being gunned down in the streets by government thugs? Since Maduro was “elected” in December 2013, the chance for a revocation vote was December 2016. The opposition garnered the signatures but Maduro’s CNE claimed once again that signatures were gained illegally. They foisted new procedures on the people only to cause further delays. Is this democratic? Why shove an unwanted constitutional convention of handpicked Maduro delegates to rewrite the constitution to stack the deck more versus hold the constitutionally legal revocation vote?
Since Jimmy Carter was not up to the task, Maduro got the ex-socialist president of Spain, Zapatero, to be an advisor and “sanctioner” of all things wanted by this corrupt government. Why is Venezuela’s imminent death of democracy important to the United States? Three countries have a significant presence in Venezuela. Chavez was cozy with Iran and purportedly built a missile launching area on the Paraguana Peninsula, posing as a factory for building tractors or other industrial equipment. Russia and China have poured billions into the oil industry. China was invited to keep the Russians in check until the Chinese realize what useful idiots they have become. Venezuela is the new Cuba for Russia. Russia can add the strategic location to check the US and control the largest oil reserves of any country in the world.