Mérida, 24th November 2014 (Venezuelanalysis.com) – The governing United Socialist Party of Venezuela (PSUV) held internal elections on Sunday to choose almost 4000 local leaders. However the election was preceded by accusations that several party dissidents had been arbitrarily ejected from the organisation.
In yesterday’s nationwide internal election, PSUV members chose 3.988 heads of the Circles of Popular Struggle. Each Circle groups together four Bolivar-Chavez Battle Units (UBCh), which are the party’s key electoral campaigning organisations. The UBCh are in turn formed by local party branches, called “sectoral patrols”.
Speaking to national media yesterday, Venezuelan president Nicolas Maduro, who is also PSUV leader, welcomed the election as “extraordinary, groundbreaking and historic,” and argued, “We are setting down the bases of a radical, direct and deep democracy”.
The election was part of the renovation and reorganisation of the PSUV, which was founded by former president Hugo Chavez in 2007, ahead of the 2015 parliamentary elections. On 29 – 30 November and then 6-7 December the heads of the 13,682 UBCh and 136,820 sectoral patrols will also be elected, creating what Maduro called “the organised vanguard of the new leadership and new socialist modernity of Venezuela”.
The president also said that turnout for the internal election was higher than the election for national conference delegates in July this year, whose turnout was never disclosed. On paper the party has over 7 million members in a nation of 30 million, however other sources place the real number of activists under 3 million.
It was announced that the Great Patriotic Pole (GPP), the coalition of parties which supports the Bolivarian government, will hold a national congress in December, completing the cycle of political organisation among pro-government forces ahead of next year’s legislative elections.
During Sunday’s internal election various PSUV figures praised the party’s democratic character and strength as the country’s foremost political force. “No one can deny that the PSUV is the most revolutionary, democratic and creative party in the history of Venezuela…here is the country’s force of socialist and democratic modernity,” said Maduro as he cast his vote in Caracas.
Other voices contested the PSUV’s narrative of the internal election. Henrique Capriles, a state governor and former opposition presidential candidate, said during an event today that the PSUV “is a boat that is sinking and everyone is going down. Nicolas (Maduro) and his combo will be left on their own. Voting centres looked empty during the internal election”.
Political analyst and dissident chavista Nicmer Evans tweeted that according to his sources only 10% of PSUV members in Caracas turned out and that less than one million members nationally participated in the election. “It [the PSUV] doesn’t stop being a great machine, but it continues to reduce,” he said.
Alleged Expulsion of Dissidents
The PSUV’s internal election was preceded by accusations made through media that two leaders of the dissident leftist grouping in the PSUV, Marea Socialista (Socialist Tide), had been arbitrarily removed from the party’s membership. Marea Socialista claimed in a 20 November press release that Nicmer Evans and Heiber Barreto Sanchez, along with Carlos Hurtado, the coordinator of the Socialist Middle Class organisation, had been made absent from an electronic list of party members ahead of the internal election.
“We exhort the national leadership of the PSUV to inform and clarify if the members from Marea Socialista and Socialist Middle Class have been suspended from the party or not,” said the press release.
The controversy comes after several chavista organisations, including Socialist Middle Class, declared their intention to work with MS in pushing a critical line and alternative solutions to the country’s current economic woes and perceived problems of official corruption and bureaucracy.
At a recent forum in Caracas, MS also agreed to campaign for the suspension of disciplinary proceedings against two leading PSUV figures after an internal fallout in the party in June. Concern was also raised over a “whistleblower” phone line apparently set up by the PSUV for members to denounce each other for “promoting division”.
The alarm was raised after Franciso Ameliach, a state governor and the PSUV’s vice president for electoral affairs, tweeted on 12 November that “the activist that is promoting disunity should be denounced,” followed by a mobile number and gmail address named “denounce PSUV infiltrators”.
According to an article written on 20 November by leftist commentators Toby Valderrama and Antonio Aponte, Ameliach also said recently on his program on state radio RNV, “The enemy that does us most damage is the internal enemy, the fifth column, that disguises itself as chavista and isn’t chavista”.
Nicmer Evans criticised his apparent expulsion from the PSUV and other developments in an article published on independent pro-government website Aporrea.org on Sunday.
“The consecutive actions against a socialist and chavista tendency within the PSUV (Marea Socialista) that meets to debate proposals for solutions to the crisis; the bureaucracy’s decree to dissolve internal tendencies; and the declaration of a fight to the death against criticism and proposals through the so called “Mission Toad [whistleblower]”, put in evidence the progressive deterioration of a leadership that has lost its way…[A leadership] that rejects dialogue and tolerance for those who have demonstrated being capable of giving their lives for the socialist and revolutionary project led by (Hugo) Chavez,” he wrote.
President Maduro referred to the issue of internal party unity yesterday, stating, “We’re not involved in intrigue, fights, competition, backstabbing…we embrace each other in brotherhood, in struggle…because we feel like the brothers of Chavez”.