Constitutional Reform to Construct a New “Bolivarian” Democracy in Venezuela

Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez assured last Sunday that his proposed reforms to the national constitution have the intention of constructing a new "Bolivarian" democracy in the country.

Caracas, August 28, 2007 ( — Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez assured last Sunday that his proposed reforms to the national constitution have the intention of constructing a new "Bolivarian" democracy in the country. During his Sunday TV and radio program Aló Presidente, President Chavez emphasized that increased power and participation from the people, as well as a change in the organizational structure of the country are important reforms in the construction of a new model of democracy.

"The new ‘Bolivarian’ democracy is beginning to be built here," said Chavez at the beginning of his Sunday TV program that this time lasted for 7 hours.

The Venezuelan president hosted the program from the eastern coast of the country, where he met with a local communal council. It is these community organizations that Chavez has proposed to strengthen in the constitutional reform, making them one of the principal powers of the government, along with the executive, judicial, legislative, and electoral powers.

Chavez said that as a component of the national constitution, the communal councils would become the "nucleus" of the government and financing for the community organizations would be included in the national budget.

"I propose that we include the communal councils in the national budget and that we begin with a minimum of 5 percent of the whole budget," said the president, explaining his proposals for constitutional reform. "That is the proposal that we are working on," he said.

"Until now the transfer of resources to the communal councils is subject to a decision from the President of the Republic, governors, or mayors. The new proposal means that from now on part of the national resources will be assigned to the organized communities," he explained. Chavez denied that this change would weaken state governors or municipal governments, saying that regional powers would be strengthened with the reforms.

The president went on to explain his proposals to reform the organizational structure of the country. In what is known as "the new geometry of power," the constitutional reform would make communities, communes, and cities the basic units into which the national territory would be divided.

"We have to be very clear about the proposal for the new political and territorial organization of the country that really has to do with communal power and how we will be organized politically across national territory," he said.

According to Chavez, organized communities would be the primary nucleus of the government. Each community would be made up of a communal council, and the association of several communal councils would make up a commune. These communes, according to Chavez, would represent the "territorial social cell."

As an example, the president used the surrounding community to explain the proposal. The community, Valle Seco, which is made up of 126 families, together with the surrounding communities of La Lagna, El Cumbrito and El Chaparro de Guanta, would make up a commune. This commune, joined to other neighboring communes, would make up the basic territorial unit, the city.

Chavez also explained the proposal to create federal districts and federal territories in spaces that have previously been abandoned. In this respect, he referred to Venezuela's offshore territories where he is proposing to construct artificial islands to take advantage of the resources in this territory such as minerals, fishing, gas, petroleum, and ecological wealth.

Criticisms From the Opposition

The president once again defended his proposal for constitutional reform against criticisms from the opposition, which he accused of distorting the truth.

"The opposition had been saying for six months that I would propose the elimination of private property," he said. "They were hit with the surprise of the century because I am proposing and saying that several types of property will be recognized here, among them private property."

Chavez criticized the press for trying to manipulate the proposal by saying that private property was being marginalized by the proposed reform.
"I'm sure nobody at this stage of the game will be confused or afraid of that," he stated.

Chavez also responded to criticisms of his proposal to remove term limits on the presidency when asked about this reform by a journalist from London's The Guardian. Chavez referred to Europe as the "kingdom of cynicism" given that his reform is criticized in Europe even though many European nations do not have term limits either.

"They are making a big deal because here we are proposing that the people decide about something that has existed in Europe for centuries," he said.

Chavez referred to some of the countries in Europe that do not have term limits including Germany, France, Italy, Portugal, and Greece. Chavez also criticized the fact that many European nations have royalty that is not elected by anyone, and asked the journalist from The Guardian why the European nations don't allow the people to vote on their political or economic systems as they do in Venezuela.

"European journalists are going crazy here saying Chavez wants to stay in power when over there they still have kings and queens that no one elects, they are hereditary," he said. "In Great Britain the prime ministers can be reelected as many times as the people want to reelect them and they are worried because here we want to implement the same thing with the consultation of the people."

"Here if you want to change a single comma of the constitution you cannot do it without the approval of the people in a national referendum. It is the people who are in charge here. I wish in Europe they would do that. I wish they would consult the people about the economic and political systems there," he said.