Chavez Sworn In to Second Full Term as Venezuela’s President

Venezuela’s President Hugo Chavez was sworn in to his second full term as President, promising to dedicate himself to the construction of Venezuelan socialism.

Caracas, January 10, 2007 (— Venezuela’s President Hugo Chavez was sworn in to his second full term as President, promising to dedicate himself to the construction of Venezuelan socialism. In his speech following the oath of office Chavez provided few new details about his second term, outlining a program that would lead Venezuela towards “21st century socialism” and that the process would be “radicalized” and “deepened.”

Chavez began by reminding his listeners that he first swore the oath of office eight years ago. This first term was cut short, after one and a half years, when the new constitution required the “relegitimation” or renewed election of all elected officials. In August 2000 he was thus reelected for his first full six year term in office.

The oath of office that Chavez gave was rather unusual, in that he swore it in the name of Jesus Christ, who was “the greatest socialist of history,” his children, the country’s liberators, and the people of Venezuela that he would “not give rest to my arm nor rest my soul, that I will give my days and nights, my entire life to the construction of Venezuelan socialism, of a new political system, of a new social system, of a new economic system.” He ended with, “Fatherland, socialism or death!”

A large part of Chavez’s two-hour speech consisted of an analysis of Simon Bolivar’s writings on social justice, which, according to Chavez, implied that capitalism cannot achieve social justice, but that only socialism could. Simon Bolivar is Venezuela’s most important independence hero, who liberated Venezuela, Colombia, Ecuador, Peru, and Bolivia from Spanish colonial rule in the early 19th century.

To be clear about what he meant by achieving social justice, Chavez stated, “The time has come for the end of privileges, the end of inequality, and nothing and no one can make us stop the car of the revolution, cost us what it may.”

The second half of Chavez’s speech repeated the five “motors” of his new term, which he had first mentioned two days earlier, during the swearing-in of his new cabinet and which are designed for establishing 21st century socialism in Venezuela. However, he added little new information to his earlier announcements. Also, he notably did not repeat any mention of his interest in nationalizing key sectors of Venezuelan industry, when he singled out the country’s main telephone company CANTV and the electricity companies for nationalization.

With regard to the five “motors” for the transformation, Chavez reiterated that the first one was the “law of laws,” referring to his request to the National Assembly to pass an “enabling” law, which would allow the president to pass laws as decrees on certain specified issues for a period of one year. He said that such an enabling law would be necessary to correct a number of old laws that come from the pre-Chavez period and that are written in the interest of private capital. Here he specifically singled out the Commerce Law, the laws that govern the distribution of state budget (FIDES and LAEE).

On Monday, Chavez had said that part of the enabling law would be the nationalization of previously privatized industries.

Next, Chavez provided a few more details about constitutional changes he has in mind, the second motor, such as the change of article 302, which reserves oil exploitation to the Venezuelan state, but does not mention natural gas. Also, Chavez mentioned article 303, which states that parts of the state oil company PDVSA could be privatized. This section, according to Chavez, had to be eliminated. Chavez then repeated his earlier proposal of allowing for an indefinite number of reelection of the president, which is currently limited to two terms.

The third motor, the launch of a program of popular education throughout the country for the whole of 2007, Chavez did not add anything to his announcement of two days earlier.

The fourth motor, the creation of a new “geometry of power,” which was left quite unclear in Monday’s announcement, Chavez explained today that it had to do with the re-configuration of how municipalities are divided in Venezuela’s geography. According to Chavez, many municipalities do not make much sense because they have either too large a population or too much territory, while others are too small.

Finally, with regard to the fifth “motor,” Chavez repeated the proposal to create an “explosion” of communal power. One of the proposals for this would be to create federations of communal councils that might eventually supplant the existing state structures. This type of federation of communal councils could go all the way to the national level.

Currently there are thousands of communal councils that were launched in 2006, with each gathering between 200 and 400 families in a direct democratic framework. The communal councils are receiving over $1 billion directly from the central government to engage in a wide variety of community improvement projects.

Chavez then said he recently “had an idea” that he was articulating now for the first time as a proposal, which is to construct socialist cities, either from scratch or from existing ones, where communal councils are the only form of political power.

In the course of his speech Chavez also referred to his decision not to renew the radio frequency concession to the oppositional TV station RCTV, saying that to do this is a right of the government and no one should interfere in the decision, such as the OAS Secretary General and Venezuela’s Cardinal Urosa Savino, who both recently urged Chavez to reverse the decision.