Venezuela’s Constitutional Reform: An Article-by-Article Summary

The following is an article-by-article summary of the changes
being proposed to Venezuela's
1999 constitution. Venezuelans will vote on the reform on December 2nd
and will do so in two blocks. Block "A" includes President Chavez's original
proposal and 13 articles introduced by the National Assembly. Block "B" includes another
26 reform articles proposed by the National Assembly. Voters may vote "Yes" or
"No" on each block.

By Gregory Wilpert – Venezuelanalysis.com
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The following is an article-by-article summary of the changes
being proposed to Venezuela's
1999 constitution. The summary is in no way official and should only be used as
an aid in making sense of the proposed constitutional reform. The official
reform text is quite long (31 pages), as it includes the full text of each to
be changed article, even if only one sentence or word was changed in the article.
Making out what, exactly, the changes are relative to the original 1999
constitution can thus be a sometimes time-consuming and difficult task.

Venezuelans will vote on the reform on December 2nd
and will do so in two blocks. Block "A" includes President Chavez's original
proposal, as amended by the National Assembly, which would change 33 articles
out of the 350 articles in the constitution. Also included in block A are
another 13 articles introduced by the National Assembly. Block "B" includes another
26 reform articles proposed by the National Assembly. Voters may vote "Yes" or
"No" on each block.


Reform Question: "Are
you in agreement with the approval of the constitutional reform project, passed
by the National Assembly, with the participation of the people, and based in
the initiative of President Hugo Chavez, with its respective titles, chapters,
and transitional, derogative, and final dispositions, distributed in the
following blocks?"

[Articles in italics
are those proposed by the National Assembly, non-italic articles were proposed
by the President.]

Block A

Section
II. Politico-Territorial Division of the Country:
President may declare
special military and development zones, citizens have a new "right to the
city."

Art. 11 - Allows the President
to decree special military regions for the defense of the nation. Also, it would
allow him to name military authorities for these regions in a case of
emergency.

Art. 16 - Allows the president to decree,
with permission from the National Assembly, communal cities, maritime regions,
federal territories, federal municipalities, island districts, federal
provinces, federal cities, and functional districts. Also the president may
name and remove national government authorities for these territorial divisions
(these do not, however, supplant the existing elected authorities in these
regions).

Art. 18 - Provides a new right, the right
to the city, which says that all citizens have the right to equal access to the
city's services or benefits. Also names Caracas,
the capital as the "Cradle of Simon Bolivar, the Liberator, and Queen of the
Warairarepano" [an indigenous name for the mountain range surrounding Caracas].

Section
III. Citizen Rights and Duties:
Voting age lowered to 16 years, gender
parity in candidacies, creation of councils of popular power, social security
fund for self-employed, reduction of workweek to 36 hours, recognition of
Venezuelans of African descent, free university education, introduction of
communal and social property.

Art.
64 - Lowers the minimum voting age from 18 to 16 years.

Art. 67 - Requires candidates for elected
office to be set up in accordance with gender parity, reverses the prohibition
against state financing of campaigns and parties, and prohibits foreign funding
of political activity.

Art. 70 - Establishes that councils of
popular power (of communities, workers, students, farmers, fishers, youth,
women, etc.) are one of the main means for citizen participation in the
government.

Art. 87 - Creates a social security fund for
the self-employed, in order to guarantee them a pension, vacation pay, sick
pay, etc.

Art. 90 - Reduction of the workweek from 44
hours to 36.

Art.
98 - Guarantees freedom for cultural creations, but without guaranteeing
intellectual property.

Art. 100 - Recognition of Venezuelans of
African descent, as part of Venezuelan culture to protect and promote (in
addition to indigenous and European culture).

Art.
103 - Right to a free education expanded from high school to university.

Art. 112 - The state will promote a
diversified and independent economic model, in which the interests of the
community prevail over individual interests and that guarantee the social and
material needs of the people. The state is no longer obliged to promote private
enterprise.

Art. 113 - Monopolies are prohibited
instead of merely being "not allowed." The state has the right to "reserve" the
exploitation of natural resources or provision of services that are considered
by the constitution or by a separate law to be strategic to the nation.
Concessions granted to private parties must provide adequate benefits to the
public.

Art. 115 - Introduces new forms of
property, in addition to private property. The new forms are (1) public
property, belonging to state bodies, (2) direct and indirect social property,
belonging to the society in general, where indirect social property is
administered by the state and direct is administered by particular communities,
(3) collective property, which belongs to particular groups, (4) mixed
property, which can be a combination of ownership of any of the previous five
forms.

Section
IV. Functions of the State:
Creation of popular power based in direct
democracy, recognition of missions for alleviating urgent needs, foreign policy
to pursue a pluri-polar world, devolution of central, state, and municipal
functions to the popular power, guaranteed revenues for the popular power.

Art. 136 - Creates the popular power, in
addition to the municipal, state, and national powers. "The people are the
depositories of sovereignty and exercise it directly via the popular power.
This is not born of suffrage nor any election, but out of the condition of the
human groups that are organized as the base of the population." The popular
power is organized via communal councils, workers' councils, student councils,
farmer councils, crafts councils, fisher councils, sports councils, youth
councils, elderly councils, women's councils, disables persons' councils, and
others indicated by law.

Art. 141 - The public administration is
organized into traditional bureaucracies and missions, which have an ad-hoc
character and are designed to address urgent needs of the population.

Art.
152 - Venezuela's
foreign policy is directed towards creating a pluri-polar world, free of
hegemonies of any imperialist, colonial, or neo-colonial power.

Art.
153 - Strengthening of the mandate to unify Latin America,
so as to achieve what Simon Bolivar called, "A Nation of Republics."

Art. 156 - Specifies the powers of the
national government, adding powers that are spelled out in earlier and in later
articles in greater detail. New powers of the national government include the
ordering of the territorial regime of states and municipalities, the creation
and suspension of federal territories, the administration of branches of the
national economy and their eventual transfer to social, collective, or mixed
forms of property, and the promotion, organization, and registering of councils
of the popular power.

Art.
157 - The national assembly may attribute to the bodies of the popular power,
in addition to those of the federal district, the states, and the
municipalities, issues that are of national government competency, so as to
promote a participatory and active democracy (instead of promoting
decentralization, as was originally stated here).

Art. 158 - The state will promote the
active participation of the people, restoring power to the population (instead
of decentralizing the state).

Art. 167 - States' incomes are increased
from 20% to 25% of the national budget, where 5% is to be dedicated to the
financing of each state's communal councils.

Art. 168 - Municipalities are obligated to
include in their activities the participation of councils of popular power.

Art. 184 - Decentralization of power, by
its transfer from state and municipal level to the communal level, will include
the participation of communities in the management of public enterprises. Also,
communal councils are defined as the executive arm of direct democratic citizen
assemblies, which elect and at any time may revoke the mandates of the communal
council members.

Art. 185 - The national government council
is no longer presided over by the Vice-President, but by the President. Its
members are the President, Vice-President(s), Ministers, and Governors. Participation
of mayors and of civil society groups is optional now. Previously the federal
governmental council (as it was called) was responsible for coordinating
policies on all governmental levels. Now it is an advisory body for the
formulation of the national development plan.

Section
V. Organization of the State:
President may name secondary vice-presidents
as needed, presidential term extended and limit on reelection removed, may
re-organize internal politico-territorial boundaries, and promotes all military
officers.

Art. 225 - The president may designate the
number of secondary vice-presidents he or she deems necessary. Previously there
was only one Vice-President.

Art. 230 - Presidential term is extended
from six to seven years. The two consecutive term limit on presidential
reelection is removed.

Art. 236 - New presidential powers as
specified in other sections of the reform are listed here, which include the
ordering and management of the country's internal political boundaries, the
creation and suspension of federal territories, setting the number and naming
of secondary vice-presidents (in addition to the first vice-president), promote
all officers of the armed forces, and administrate international reserves in
coordination with the Central Bank.

Art. 251 - Adds detail to the functioning
of the State Council, which advises the president on all matters.

Art. 252 - Composition of the State Council
changed to include the heads of each branch of government: executive,
judiciary, legislature, citizen power, and electoral power. The president may
include representatives of the popular power and others as needed. Previously
the council included five representatives designated by the president, one by
the National Assembly, one by the judiciary, and one by the state governors.

Art.
272 - Removal of the requirement for the state to create an autonomous
penitentiary system and places the entire system under the administration of a
ministry instead of states and municipalities. Also, removes the option of
privatizing the country's penitentiary system.

Section
VI. Socio-Economic System:
Weakening ofthe role of private enterprise in the economic system, possible better
treatment of national businesses over foreign ones, no privatization any part of
the national oil industry, taxation of idle agricultural land, removal of
central bank autonomy.

Art.
299 - The socio-economic regimen of the country is based on socialist (among
other) principles. Instead of stipulating that the state promotes development
with the help of private initiative, it is to do so with community, social, and
personal initiative.

Art. 300 - Rewording of how publicly owned
enterprises should be created, to be regionalized and in favor of a "socialist
economy", instead of "decentralized."

Art. 301 - Removal of the requirement that
foreign businesses receive the same treatment as national businesses, stating
that national businesses may receive better treatment.

Art. 302 - Strengthening of the state's
right to exploit the country's mineral resources, especially all those related
to oil and gas.

Art.
303 - Removal of the permission to privatize subsidiaries of the country's
state oil industry that operate within the country.

Art. 305 - If necessary, the state may take
over agricultural production in order to guarantee alimentary security and
sovereignty.

Art. 307 - Strengthening of the prohibition
against latifundios (large and idle
landed estates) and creation of a tax on productive agricultural land that is
idle. Landowners who engage in the ecological destruction of their land may be
expropriated.

Art. 318 - Removal of the Central Bank's
autonomy and foreign reserves to be administrated by the Central Bank together
with the President.

Art. 320 - The state must defend the
economic and monetary stability of the country. Removal of statements on the
bank's autonomy.

Art. 321 - Removal of the requirement to
set up a macro-economic stabilization fund. Instead, every year the President
and the Central Bank establish the level of reserves necessary for the national
economy and all "excess reserves" are assigned to a special development and
investment fund.

Section
VII. National Security:
Armed forces to be anti-imperialist, reserves to
become a militia.

Art. 328 - Armed forces of Venezuela
renamed to "Bolivarian Armed Force." Specification that the military is
"patriotic, popular, and anti-imperialist" at the service of the Venezuelan
people and never at the service of an oligarchy or of a foreign imperial power,
whose professionals are not activists in any political party (modified from the
prohibition against all political activity by members of the military).

Art. 329 - Addition of the term
"Bolivarian" to each of the branches of the military and renaming of the
reserves to "National Bolivarian Militia."

Section
VIII. Constitutional changes:
Signature requirements increased for
citizen-initiated referenda to modify the constitution.

Art.
341 - Increase in the signature requirement for citizen-initiated
constitutional amendments from 15% to 20% of registered voters.

Art.
342 - Increase in the signature requirement for citizen-initiated
constitutional reforms from 15% to 25% of registered voters.

Art.
348 - Increase in the signature requirement for citizen-initiated
constitutional assembly from 15% to 30% of registered voters.

Block
"B"

Section
III. Citizen Rights and Duties:
Non-discrimination based on sexual
orientation and health, increase in signature requirements for
citizen-initiated referenda, primary home protected from expropriation.

Art.
21 - Inclusion of prohibition against discrimination based on sexual
orientation and on health.

Art.
71 - Increase in the signature requirement for citizen-initiated consultative
referenda from 10% to 20% of registered voters.

Art.
72 - Increase in the signature requirement for citizen-initiated recall
referenda from 20% to 30% of registered voters. Also, voter participation set
at minimum 40% (previously no minimum was set, other than that at least as many
had to vote for the recall as originally voted for the elected official).

Art.
73 - Increase in the signature requirement for citizen-initiated approbatory
referenda from 15% to 30% of registered voters.

Art.
74 - Increase in the signature requirement for citizen-initiated rescinding
referenda from 10% to 30% of registered voters. In the case of law decrees,
increased from 5% to 30% of registered voters.

Art.
82 - Protection of primary home from confiscation due to bankruptcy or other
legal proceedings.

Art.
109 - Equal voting rights for professors, students, and employees in the
election of university authorities.

Section
IV. Functions of the State:
State and local comptrollers appointed by
national Comptroller General, political divisions determined on a national
instead of state level.

Art.
163 - State comptrollers are to be appointed by the national Comptroller
General, not the states, following a process in which organizations of popular
power nominate candidates.

Art.
164 - State powers are specified in accordance with other articles of the
reform. States can no longer organize the politico-territorial division of
municipalities, but only coordinate these.

Art.
173 - Political divisions within municipalities are to be determined by a
national law, instead of being in the power of the municipalities. The creation
of such divisions is to attend to community initiative, with the objective
being the de-concentration of municipal administration.

Art.
176 - The municipal comptroller is to be appointed by the national Comptroller
General, not the municipalities, following the nomination of candidates by the organizations
of popular power.

Section
V. State organization:
Councils of popular power participate in the
nomination of members of the judiciary, citizen, and electoral powers, procedures
for removing members of these branches specified more explicitly.

Art.
191 - National Assembly deputies who the president has called to serve in the
executive may return to the National Assembly to finish their term in office
once they stop working in the executive. Previously they lost their seat in the
assembly.

Art.
264 - Specifies that Supreme Court judges are to be named by a majority of the
National Assembly, instead of being left to a law. Also, in addition to civil
society groups related to the law profession, representatives of the popular
power are to participate in the nomination process.

Art.
265 - Supreme Court judges may be removed from office by a simple majority vote
of the National Assembly, instead of a two-thirds majority and an accusation by
the citizen power.

Art.
266 - Adds the ability of the Supreme Court to rule on the merits of court
proceedings against members of the National Electoral Council, in addition to
its ability to do so in the case of all other high-level government officials.

Art.
279 - Includes representatives of popular power councils for the nomination of
Attorney General, Comptroller General, and Human Rights Defender. Also,
specifies that each of these may be removed by a majority of the National
Assembly, instead of leaving the issue to a separate law and a ruling from the
Supreme Court.

Art.
289 - Adds to the Comptroller General's powers the ability to name state and
municipal comptrollers.

Art.
293 - Removes the National Electoral Council's responsibility to preside over
union elections.

Art.
295 - Inclusion of representatives from the Popular Power in the nomination
process of members to the National Electoral Council. Specifies that members
may be chosen by a majority of National Assembly members, instead of a
two-thirds majority. Election of electoral council members is supposed to be
staggered now, where three are elected and then halfway through their 7-year
term, the other two are to be elected.

Art.
296 - Members of the National Electoral Council may be removed by a majority of
National Assembly members, without the need of a prior ruling from the Supreme
Court.

Section
VIII. Constitutional exceptions:
Right to information no longer guaranteed
during state of emergency, emergencies to last as long as the conditions that
caused it.

Art. 337
- Change in states of emergency, so that the right to information is no longer
protected in such instances. Also, the right to due process is removed in favor
of the right to defense, to no forced disappearance, to personal integrity, to
be judged by one's natural judges, and not to be condemned to over 30 years
imprisonment.

Art.
338 - States of alert, emergency, and of interior or exterior commotion are no
longer limited to a maximum of 180 days, but are to last as long as conditions
persist that motivated the state of exception.

Art.
339 - The Supreme Court's approval for states of exception is no longer
necessary, only the approval of the National Assembly.

Full
Spanish text of the constitutional reform proposal

English
translation of Venezuela's 1999 constitution