Differences among Chavez Supporters over Venezuelan Constitutional Reforms

The Venezuelan political party Podemos distanced itself yesterday from comments made over the weekend by Ramon Martinez, the Podemos Governor of the state of Sucre, who called for an alliance of governors and mayors to “defend regional autonomy” against President Chavez’s plan for a “new geometry of power.”

Caracas, August 21, 2007, (venezuelanlysis.com) – The Venezuelan political party Podemos distanced itself yesterday from comments made over the weekend by Ramon Martinez, the Podemos Governor of the state of Sucre, who called for an alliance of governors and mayors to “defend regional autonomy” against President Chavez’s plan for a “new geometry of power.”

Chavez’s proposal would allow for the creation, through popular referendum, of “federal districts” in specific areas, which could then be categorized as states. The proposals would also allow for the appointment of various regional vice-presidents and the recognition of the social missions as alternative administrations to bypass the old bureaucratic institutions. During his announcement to the National Assembly on August 15, Chavez argued that these changes are necessary “to remove the old oligarchic, exploiter hegemony, the old society, and, in the words of Gramsci, to weaken the old ‘historic block.’”

Chavez also warned against “regionalism,” which he described as a “dogma, that impedes change,” and, he continued, “we can not accept situations that create Caudillos.”

In response Martinez said that he is opposed to any territorial alteration of the State of Sucre and in an interview in the August 19 edition of El Nacional claimed that “Ramoncismo [a reference to Martinez’ first name] is much stronger than Chavismo,” in the streets of Sucre.

Martinez continued, “Not only are we in defense of regional autonomy, but of the constitution.” He also said, “In this struggle, I am accompanied by more than 46 mayors throughout the country. I’m not going to give you more details of the plan. I am the only one sticking out my nose.”

Podemos deputy in the National Assembly Ricardo Guitierrez clarified that the party did not support the comments of the Governor of Sucre. “This is an attitude in which the governor and president of the party Ramon Martinez runs with his own colors. We have discussed our position over the weekend and we will express them in the National Assembly during the first discussion of the project to reform the constitution [today].”

However, Guitierrez conceded Podemos does have differences over the proposed geopolitical reorganization of the country.

Venezuelan opposition parties argue that the “new geometry of power” would centralize power in the executive and weaken governorships, however Chavez argues the aim is to transfer power to the people. During an inauguration of a Children’s Cardiology Hospital yesterday, Chavez declared, “I am not an enemy of decentralization.” Rather, he argued, he is an enemy of the “bureaucratic, corrupt state.”

Podemos, which describes itself as a “social democratic” party, declined to dissolve itself earlier this year to become part of the new United Socialist Party of Venezuela (PSUV), and has since replaced Accion Democratica as the Venezuelan representative of the Socialist International, an international alliance of ‘social democratic’ parties, including the British Labour Party, the Australian Labour Party, the Socialist Parties of France and Spain, among others.

Patria Para Todas (PPT), another Chavez-aligned party that also declined to become part of the PSUV, is organizing 3,000 open forums all around the country to discuss the proposed constitutional reforms. Jose Albornoz, a PPT Deputy in the National Assembly, said that while the PPT maintained some differences with the proposal of the president, on the question of reelection, they supported the removal of the two-term limit, which would allow Chavez to stand for reelection in 2012. However, they argued that this should apply to all publicly elected positions.

Geronimo Carrera, president of the Venezuelan Communist Party (the third Chavez-aligned party which declined to be part of the PSUV), was quoted as saying in the daily newspaper El Nacional (August 18), “The country is tired of constitutions.” The solutions to the social problems Venezuela faces are more pressing than constitutional reform, he argued, “It is not a legal problem, but one of planning.”

Carrera also said that Chavez defended private property in his proposal, “because he is a politician, he prioritized tactics over principles,” he continued, “In a revolutionary change… you cannot permit coexistence with private property.”