Merida, July 30, 2018 (venezuelanalysis.com) – The fourth national congress of Venezuela’s largest political party, the United Socialist Party (PSUV), wound up Monday following three days of intense activities. The congress was inaugurated Saturday on the 64th birthday of the party’s founder, Hugo Chavez.
The PSUV congress took place in an increasingly complicated context, amidst a collapsing economy, hyperinflation, international financial sanctions, and an upcoming monetary reconversion.
Furthermore, during the past month, grassroots chavista groups have been pressuring the government through protest actions, such as an on-going public sector nurses’ strike, a workplace slowdown from electrical workers, and a campesino protest march which is bearing down on the capital city this week.
The 670 delegates to the PSUV congress discussed key topics including modifying currency controls, the sustainability of state subsidies -- especially on petrol -- and a productive restructuring of state-run industries
“The IV Congress of the PSUV has as its work method the dialectical balance of reflection, study, thoughtfulness, and action, which will define the future of the nation,” tweeted Maduro at the opening of the congress, which, he said “looks to find solutions for the country.”
A fierce debate on how to solve Venezuela's economic problems occurred between the various tendencies within the PSUV, with Maduro calling for “self-criticism.” In theory, the congress is an opportunity for grassroots movements to manifest the day to day conditions to high ranking PSUV leaders, whom many accuse of being out of touch with such realities.
Some, but not all, of the PSUV leaders have adopted Maduro’s call for self-criticism, opening the way for constructive debate on ways to improve the government’s effectiveness. For example, leading PSUV member Freddy Bernal controversially challenged the official discourse which blames a Washington-led economic war for the majority of the current problems. “We are nineteen years into a revolution, only we are responsible for the good and the bad,” he said.
During the congress, numerous leading PSUV members voiced their opinions on the issues at hand via Twitter.
Prisons Minister Iris Varela tweeted “An increase in petrol prices is necessary, as is a direct subsidy only for those who need it, enough of financing the parasitic oligarchy and the smugglers, no more free petrol for [right wing politician] Maria Corina [Machado], [leading Venezuelan industrialist] Lorenzo Mendoza.”
Similarly, Vice-President Aristobulo Isturiz argued in favour of the communities and communes assuming more power, stating that “a communal state should emerge from this congress.”
Numerous workgroups held over the weekend gave a framework to the debate, whose results were channeled into a Monday plenary session. The congress’s conclusions are expected to be announced shortly.
“This is how the workgroups were installed for the states of Amazonas and Bolivar with the leaders Fernando Soto Rojas and Governors Justo Noguera Pietri and Miguel Rodriguez,” reads this tweet.
#FOTOS Así fueron instaladas las mesas de trabajo por los estados Amazonas-Bolívar con los dirigentes Fernando Soto Rojas y los gobernadores Justo Noguera Pietri y Miguel Rodríguez pic.twitter.com/SiipaMZ2V4
— PSUV (@PartidoPSUV) July 30, 2018
The PSUV holds its congress every four years. Across Venezuela, the party currently controls 303 of the 335 municipalities, 19 of the 23 states, almost the entire National Constituent Assembly, 31 out of 167 seats in the National Assembly, and the presidency of the Republic.
The congress delegates were selected democratically from the 14,000 party cells – the Bolivar-Chavez Battle Units (UBCh) – with public office holders barred from participating as delegates. Many of the PSUV mayors and governors did, however, participate as specially invited guests.
According to pre-congress documents, all delegates had to be “socialists, Bolivarians, chavistas, anti-imperialists, anti-capitalists, humanists, environmentalists, and feminists.”
The congress’s delegate selection process was mostly uneventful, but there were a few localised complaints. For example, alleged irregularities took place in El Vigia, Merida state, where the UBCh claim a top-down imposition by local PSUV leader Rodolfo Zerpa forced the replacement of the elected communal activist Edith Guerrero.
Twenty-four international representatives accompanied the congress, including members of the Cuban, Chinese, Portuguese, Brazilian, and Chilean Communist Parties, and other allied parties from Panama, Mozambique, Spain, Guinea Bissau, Guatemala, Paraguay, Dominican Republic, Colombia, El Salvador, Nicaragua, Peru, Argentina, South Africa, and Palestine.
Maduro also invited representatives from his Venezuelan allies in the chavista Great Patriotic Pole, but it is unclear whether they took up his invitation. Nevertheless, the president affirmed that ideas from outside the PSUV are being considered.
“The Communist Party propose that we nationalise in a revolutionary way parts of the country’s economy and this hasn’t been rejected but rather is under evaluation,” he explained.
Pressure to receive chavista campesino march
The PSUV’s congress took place as the Admirable March of discontented chavista campesinos nears its culmination in Caracas, having nearly completed the planned 435-kilometer route. The march aims to draw the president’s attention to grave problems in the countryside.
Currently in Paracotos on the outskirts of Caracas, the march has drawn wide-reaching support from left-wing grassroots movements and political parties including the Communist Party and the Tupamaros. By contrast, only individual members of the PSUV have voiced support for it.
Pressure is increasing on President Maduro to personally receive the marchers and listen to their proposals, but he has yet to commit himself. Nevertheless, Maduro did mention the march at the opening of the congress, emphasizing that “the strength of the campesino bloc needs to build itself around a productive plan.”
Both Iris Varela and Education Minister Elias Jaua added their support to the campesinos this weekend, with Varela tweeting that “As a member of the national leadership of the PSUV, I ask congress to receive the campesino march which has been marching for numerous days towards Caracas and which brings important proposals which we should all listen to and act upon.”
Como miembro de la dirección nacional del PSUV pido que el Congreso reciba la marcha campesina que tiene varios días marchando hacia Caracas y traen planteamientos importantes que todos debemos escuchar y actuar en consecuencia!
— maria iris varela (@irisvarela) July 28, 2018