Inner-Party Disputes Flare in the Formation of United Socialist Party of Venezuela

A dispute within the pro-Chavez sector over how to go about the formation of the new United Socialist Party of Venezuela (PSUV) ended with one of the involved politicians apologizing for his comments.

Caracas, September 6, 2007, ( – A dispute within the pro-Chavez sector over how to go about the formation of the new United Socialist Party of Venezuela (PSUV) ended with one of the involved politicians apologizing for his comments.

In a press conference Wednesday Venezuelan Deputy Francisco Ameliach admitted that he had made a “political error” when he said on the 24th of August that Chavez’s former party, the Movement for the Fifth Republic (MVR), could be resurrected in time for the regional elections of governors next year if the process of forming the new United Socialist Party of Venezuela was incomplete.

The comments which President Hugo Chavez said were detrimental to the formation of the new party, prompted him to call for the establishment a provisional discipline tribunal in the PSUV, headed by headed by the Governor of Miranda and former vice-president Diosdado Cabello, who is often described as being on the rightwing of ‘Chavismo’. Chavez also announced at the same time that he was withdrawing his some of his proposed changes to the structure of the military, (which would have effectively seen the dissolution of the National Guard through its incorporation into other bodies of the armed forces), after a meeting Military High Command on the 24th, in relation to reports of anti-Chavez material circulating in the military barracks.

After being called to the discipline tribunal on August 26, Ameliach resigned from his position as head of the pro-Chavez “Socialist Block” in parliament, to which, he had been elected by default a week earlier, when the other candidate, Mario Isea, who won the elections, stepped aside. Isea has since assumed the leadership of the Socialist Block. Ameliach, who had been holding meetings with various sectors of the military to convince them to support Chavez's initial proposed changes to the structure of the military, also resigned from his position on the National Assembly Defense and Security Commission.

Ameliach’s resignations prompted a dispute in the “Socialist Block” of parliamentarians with rumors that he had been forced to resign and that a letter signed by 144 deputies (out of 167 in the National Assembly) supporting him had been sent to Vice-President Jorge Rodriguez and President Chavez.

Leftist National Assembly deputies Iris Valera and Luis Tascon came out in defense of Ameliach, describing him as a "loyal patriot" and "revolutionary" and said there was an opposition campaign against the parliamentary deputies supported by sectors of the pro-Chavez movement, according the September 5 edition of El Universal.

Valera also questioned the ascendancy of Isea to leadership of the “Socialist Block” and said Ameliach had demonstrated his loyalty by his conduct during the short-lived military coup of April 2002, while "others were imprisoned by panic and only reappeared when the President returned, rescued by the people."

Tascon denied that the deputies wanted to reactivate the MVR. "The deputies, in their majority …embrace the Bolivarian project. We are socialists and respect the initiative of the Chief of State to advance the deepening and acceleration of the construction of a socialist homeland."

According to the same article other deputies also questioned the impartiality of the discipline tribunal, asking why hard-line revolutionary leader Lina Ron, who has frequently referred to all the parliamentary deputies as "traitors", has not been called before the tribunal.

Opposition daily El Nacional (Sept 5) also reported that Tascon and Valera had affirmed the existence of the letter signed by 144 deputies in support of Ameliach. However, Vice President and co-coordinator of the National Promoters Commission of the PSUV, Jorge Rodriguez, denied in a press conference on Tuesday that he had received such a letter and said the communication he had received from the parliamentary deputies related to the constitution of the Socialist Block in parliament and the strategy for the constitutional reform campaign. Roberto Hernandez, the Vice President of the National Assembly, who initially supported Tascon and Valera’s assertion, then retracted his comments. Ameliach claimed yesterday that what existed was a “draft document” – “not a letter,” raising the “inquietudes” of some parliamentarians in relation to the formation of the PSUV.

Ameliach, the former president of the Miranda Commando, which was charged with running Chavez’s election campaign last year, referred to Valera and Tascon’s comments saying, “I don’t need any compatriot to assume my defense.” He also reaffirmed his status as an aspiring activist of the PSUV.

Ameliach also agreed with Rodriguez that there was no factional confrontation between an “Alternative Current” lead by Tascon and Valera and the National Promoters Commission of the PSUV. “There are no permanent or subterranean currents, rather only a commitment to build the most democratic party in the world,” Rodriguez declared.

However, differences have also emerged over Rodriguez claim that 1.5 million of the original 5.7 million people who signed up to be members are meeting in the socialist battalions of the PSUV every Saturday, with other reports from the National Promoters Commission claiming the figure is closer to 900,000.

Activists in a PSUV battalion in Neuva Caracas told on Sunday that the dispute represented 'squabbling' between the parliamentary deputies and that the real issue was to build up the PSUV at a grassroots level.

Similarly, Mayor of the central Caracas district of Libertador, Freddy Bernal, was quoted by the Bolivarian News Agency (ABN) as saying that the new leadership of the PSUV will come from the base, and that the PSUV is "against power groups, currents, personalities and impositions."

"Surely there will be some problems, discord and differences. This is normal," he continued. However, he added, "if some want to sabotage the process of construction, we will call them to the discipline tribunal and speak with them. If they don't change their attitude we will take the necessary measures."

This does not mean that dissidence is prohibited in the PSUV he said. "Everyone can think whatever they want. What is happening is that in some regions there are feudal mayors, governors, that feel fear at the surge of new leaders, of being displaced, that want to manipulate the new party and name the spokes people."

Rodriguez also announced a revised schedule for elections to the founding congress of the PSUV, which were delayed in August to prioritize discussion of Chavez's proposed constitutional reforms.

The battalions of the PSUV would elect spokes people on the 29th of September, he said. He then went on to explain that people would only be able to vote for spokespeople if they had attended more than three meetings of their battalion and would only be able to stand if they had attended at least 50% of the meetings. Each battalion would also elect four commissions; a political and ideological commission, organization and logistics commission, a communications commission and a commission for social work.

Rodriguez then explained that the spokespeople elected from every 10 battalions would form a "Socialist Circumscription," which would then elect on the October 6th a total of 1,400 delegates to the Founding Congress, which will commence on October 20th. The political program and internal structure of the PSUV will be decided at this congress.