Venezuela: Disputes in Process of Delegate Nominations to PSUV Congress

A total of 70,501 socialist “patrols” (local branches of 20-30 members) participated in the process for nominating candidates over the past week for delegate elections for the First Extraordinary Congress of the PSUV, according to Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez.

By Kiraz Janicke - Venezuelanalysis.com
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Caracas, October 26th 2009 (Venezuelanalysis.com) – A total of 70,501 socialist “patrols” (local branches of 20-30 members) participated in the process for nominating candidates over the past week for delegate elections for the First Extraordinary Congress of the PSUV, according to Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez.

Chavez, who is also the president of the United Socialist Party of Venezuela (PSUV), made the announcement during his weekly television program, “Hello President” (Aló Presidente”) on Sunday.

The patrols, consisting of 63,448 territorial patrols (organised on a geographical basis) and 7,053 workers patrols (organised on a workplace basis), nominated more than 8,000 candidates, according to figures submitted by PSUV National Coordinator Jorge Rodriguez. 

On November 15, the candidates will compete in elections on a municipal basis for the 700 delegate places in the congress. The National Electoral Commission (CNE) will organize the elections, which will be open to all of the PSUV’s almost 7 million registered members. The congress itself will be held over three weekends in Caracas beginning on November 21.  

The nominations process occurred in the context of a PSUV restructuring, which has been going on since August 1, when the formation of the patrols began. Previously, in the lead up to the founding congress in 2008, the PSUV was organised into larger “battalions” of 300 members based on population areas of around 1,000 people. Spokespeople from every 7-12 battalions formed a “circumscription,” from which the delegates to the founding congress were elected. 

Although the PSUV held elections for its national leadership after its first congress, as well as internal primaries for candidates in the 2008 regional and municipal elections, the party’s constitution and structure were never finalised at the founding congress. This resulted in ad-hoc regional leadership bodies that were appointed by the national leadership, rather than being democratically elected.

Many rank and file members of the PSUV say that lack of structures and accountability has allowed bureaucratic and rightwing sections, linked to state institutions, such as municipal, regional and national government bodies, to undermine participation within the party. 

This conflict spilled over into a heated debate in Caracas last Thursday, when representatives of the patrols held a general assembly and voted to remove the appointed regional electoral commission - selected by the PSUV vice president for Caracas and the Central Region, Diosdado Cabello - and replace it with one democratically elected by the general assembly.

The initial electoral commission had been formed by members of the Regional Political Commission of the PSUV leadership, some of whom were also candidates for the upcoming delegate elections.

In response to the decision by the general assembly, regional coordinator Freddy Bernal called an urgent meeting of the Regional Political Commission. In the meeting it was resolved to remove members of the appointed electoral commission who were also candidates and replace them with other members of the Regional Political Team.

It was then decided to merge the commission elected by the general assembly with that appointed by the regional leadership, with a declaration that the appointed members will provide “support” to the elected commission.

In Carabobo state, reports surfaced of problems with the nominations process via the PSUV’s website, such as the “cloning” of patrols, which involved the usurpation of identity card numbers of those responsible for registering the nominations and making false nominations, thereby disabling the card number of the patrol representative.

Also some of the patrols were not registered on the website, despite going through the proper process of submitting the paperwork to the regional leadership bodies in order to register, and were therefore unable to nominate their candidates.

During his speech Chavez criticised the “irregularities” that occurred in some states as well as what he described as “communicational problems” within the party. “It’s necessary to make sure that the information arrives to everybody,” he said.

On the question of internal currents within the party, Chavez stated, “they are natural and it is necessary to allow their expression within the party and to discuss ideas and then, with much discipline, accept the resulting strategic decisions.”

“It is valid that there are different visions but in the framework of the socialist project. What we seek is that such disputes do not turn into a knife fight or a confrontation, this is what I am asking of everyone and think the party is maturing in that sense,” he added.

After the congress, the PSUV will hold elections for candidates for the upcoming 2010 National Assembly elections. “May the best cadres win,” Chavez said.

He also criticised opposition parties for failing to hold internal elections for candidates and party leadership – a constitutional requirement in Venezuela.

“There is the opposition fighting amongst each other, making lists of candidates, without consulting anyone, as if they are sharing out pieces of cake. However, in the end they aren’t going to have any pieces, because we are going to give them a knock out in the parliamentary elections,” he declared.