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INSURGENTES against Venezuela´s constitutional reform

by Espacio INSURGENTES Friday, Nov. 16, 2007 at 8:40 AM

* Various organizations and individuals within Venezuela, each with a history of social struggle and each bringing with them diverse proposals from the anti-authoritarian and critical left, have assembled in the space of INSURGENTES (INSURGENTS) to forge a position against the proposed constitutional “reform” offered by the republic’s President, Hugo Chavez Frias.

Constitutions, in all countries, invariably reflect the power relations that exist between societies different social classes. Today’s proposed “reform” simply confirms the victory obtained by transnational capital during the coup and petrol sabotage of 2002-2003 which created Mixed Businesses and has led to the handover of vast new mineral and petroleum concessions to foreign capital.

The President’s “reform” proposals, the modifications passed by the National Assembly and all of the other modifications that have been announced, fundamentally inscribe and accommodate global capitalism’s agenda to demolish, across the board, any obstacles which impede the growth of profit, access to the country’s enormous energy and mineral reserves, and the free circulation of capital, goods and services. They are an extension of what is called the “globalization” of the world economy - a process which reflects the predatory nature of international capital.

As a provider of energy, minerals and hard currency, Venezuela is one of the pillars of the world capitalist economy, offering vital support to the profitability of the big energy and mineral corporations and thus entirely implicated in a perverse and genocidal model of civilization.

The principal objective pursued by big capital with this “reform” is to give constitutional authority to the system of mixed property established between the National State and private capital (through mixed businesses), which is implied in the offering of sovereignty to the transnationals and foreign governments — and not only in oil but also in minerals and all public services.

This alliance was legalized in 2006 by the National Assembly when, without consulting anyone, they approved the Standard Contract of Mixed Businesses. By applying this organizational structure, transnational oil businesses changed their role from that of service providers to owners of 40% of the hydrocarbons that are under the subsoil of Venezuelan territory. This represents the essence of the so-called “reform” and explains the speed with which they want to place this issue before the people — in order to legitimize electorally their new political swindle. Once it has attained its primary objective of privatization, global capitalism will permit the bolivarian government any number of corresponding structural changes; so long as it continues to allow the intensification and stabilization of their lucrative and exploitive activities. With the subordination of the State firmly in place via the creation of mixed-property (State/international Capital alliance) sovereignty is violated at the economic base of the entire society - not only in the oil industry but in all branches of the economy.

To obtain this the government, in the interest and behest of international capital, has by necessity to introduce, among others, the following changes:

1. Concentration of power in the President of the Republic (Articles 11, 16, 18, 70, 136, 141, 156, 158, 167, 184, 185, 225, 230, 236, 251, 252, 305, 307, 318, 320, 321, 328, 329 and the transitory measures), in flagrant contradiction to the principle of popular participation and leadership.

The proposed “reform” grants the President extensive powers which are not subject to any external control: Chief of State; Head of Government; Administrator of Public Finances and the National Budget; Author and Ratifier of International Accords and Treaties; Commander and Chief of the Armed Forces with the power to intervene in all of its branches and appoint officials; Creator and Director of New Territorial Entities and Public Powers; Directing the Budgets for the Missions; naming vice-presidents; establishing and arranging international reserves; Inspector and Director of the National Counsel of Government and the Counsel of State, and establishing and unilaterally directing the country’s developmental plans.

It is abundantly clear that the usurpation of the right to choose local and regional representatives by the President of the Republic — who under the terms of the reform will appoint them himself — is in direct contradiction to his claim of public electoral responsibility (article 70). In open complicity with the National Assembly and other public powers, the President will have the unilateral authority to execute these sweeping powers.

2. Bureaucratization and control of social movements (through the modification of Articles 67, 70, 136, 141 and 184).

The State normalizes and regulates an obligatory and historically specific form of political engagement under the banner of a “Popular Power” which is born and administered by establishment authorities. National Executive Power is controlling the entire collective dynamic, alienating the historical autonomy that social movements once had in Venezuela. Power, which until now constitutionally resided within the people, is usurped and is arbitrarilly and un-constitutionally “transferred” to them by the President.

To be able to participate in what is called Popular Power, it is obligatory to be inscribed in the predefined organizations mandated by the National Executive Power; which presupposes losing the rights to free association and participation which are contained in article 67.

3. The deregulation and flexibility of labor is legalized and presented to the workers as a “revolutionary” advance in order for them to approve the so-called “reform” (Articles 70, 87, 90, 141).

The historical banner of reducing the working day is appropriated in order to adjust the relations of labor to the exigencies of global capitalism: which depends less and less on labor for the accumulation of capital. Giant multi-national corporations have progessively imposed the modality of temporary labor, remuneration for hours worked, to free itself from the difficulty of conforming workers to the reality of the new world order.

In article 90, the Constitution of the Bolivarian Republic of Venezuela (CBRV) adequately considers the reduction of the working day without the need for any reform: in article 86 it establishes a national system of free, universal and public social security; in article 92 and in the 4th transitory measure no. 3 which proclaim the retroactivation of the social allowance through special laws that the government was obliged to promulgate. The promised free-time, furthermore, was to be planned and organized by the owners (Article 90). With the modification passed by the National Assembly, this function will now be the reserve of the State.

4. The Militarization of Venezuelan society (Articles 11, 328, 329 and the transitory measures)

This “reform” consolidates the imperial project by harnessing, once again, Latin American military forces as agents of counter-insurgency, the repression of internal conflicts and combatants in the war against drugs. The crystallization of this project is evident in the creation of a new military doctrine which changes the role of the Bolivarian Armed Forces to include that of the Bolivarian popular militia in the maintenance of public order and internal peace as well as police administration and prison investigations.

Such proposed changes directly effect and aggravate the Human Rights situation in Venezuela. The militarization of every sphere of our society is nothing more than a prelude to the establishment of a Totalitarian State, consumated in the reform, and now in force within the Penal Code, as well as the National Police Law and in the Law Against Terrorism, which have been approved at the executive level. These political/police laws are the practical instruments of the “reform,” guaranteeing Capital the peace and security necessary for the smooth development of its operations. Therefore, the modification of articule 337 of our Magna Carta makes possible the suspension of our rights of due process and freedom of information during a state of emergency, which gives the Police State significant constitutional range. In brief, the Venezuelan State, faithful to its repressive history, once again reaffirms its monopoly on the exercise of violence against the people; as was perpetrated in the massacres of the Caracazo, El Amparo, Yumare, Cantaura, La Paragua, Alto Llano in Apure, Barrio Kennedy, and on both sides of the massacre of April, 2002.

Towards this objective, the ministry of defense has announced the training of 5 thousand irregular sharpshooters “to safeguard the interest of the Socialist State in particuler in cases where public order threatens to transgress the normal peace of the city and especially when the security of the president is in jeopardy” (Edict 569, QUINTO DIA). In this way a platform has been consolidated upon which to intensify repression and neutralize and stamp-out whatever manifestation of popular protest emerges against the outrages of the State.

_The capitalist essence of the Venezuelan State is not reformed but intensified_

The Bolivarian Constitution of Venezuela of 1999, in its articles 299, 301, 303 has given: private capital together with the State responsibility for promoting the development of the country; foreign investment the same treatment and benefits of local capital, and legal status to mixed businesses in the oil industry. These articles, in essence the socio-economic regime of the country, are not being modified in the President’s proposed “reform.” It is important to emphasize that assembly members, juggling with words, trying to hide the true essence of the new constitution, have only modified the form of articles 299, 301 and 303 — conserving the neoliberal and capitalist foundation of the existing order contained in reform articles 112, 113 and 115. Legislators have limited themselves to changing and substituting words, maintaining the original intention of the system’s base. For example, in article 301 they have eliminated the final paragraph where they extend the same constitutional protection to foreign businesses as national ones — however they give constitutional authority to mixed businesses that are already operating and which continue to negotiate with transnational businesses and foreign governments.

Each of these businesses and governments, moreover, are subject to international rights treaties, therefore violating article 13 of the CBRV whose text explicitly reads: “The national territory can never be ceded, trespassed, neither leased or alienated in any form, temporal or spatial, to Foreign States or others subjected to international rights.” For example, it is unconstitutional to establish mixed buisnesses with the governments of Cuba, Colombia, Brasil, Panama, Nicaragua, Iran, Algeria, China, Vietnam, among others, and equally with businesses like Chevron, Gazpron, Repsol, BP, China Petroleum, Lukoil, Mitsubishi, etc.

The alterations of articles 112, 113 and 115 proposed in the “reform” are designed precisely to give constitutional authority to the creation of mixed businesses in all spheres of the national economy: a move whose alarm was sounded with the opening of the oil industry during the decade of the 1990s. With the “reform”, transnational ownership of a good part (up to 49%) of Venezuela´s oil and mineral reserves is constitutionally recognized. Once again, this also helps explain the stubborn insistence on accelerating the modification of the Magna Carta; to guarantee the role that the world centers of domination have assigned our country in the international division of work and capital: which is no more than an effort to place at their disposal a cheap workforce and an abundance of natural resources.

Mixed businesses in oil and minerals are implicated in the destruction of a million square Km of territory (including 500 thousand square Km lying off-shore) that are being submitted to exploration and exploitation, with all the known ecological consequences. The last fishing reserve in the country, lying between Isla Margarita, Los Testigos and Puerto Sucre, will be destroyed with the gasoline pipeline, Gran Mariscal de Ayacucho (CIGMA). The national mineral plan unveiled by the president affects 52% of the national territory, principally in vital biodiversity zones within the states of Bolivar, Amazonas, Delta Amacuro, Sierra de Perijá and the Andes. In Perijá alone it is calcuated that due to the concessions with carbon transnationals 500 thousand hectars of forest and 7 million tons of primary vegitation are at risk.

The environmental impact of the proposed reform amounts to an immense ecocide covering the entire span of the country. The future plans of international capital are registered in the Regional Integration of South American Infrastructure (RISK). This plan of destruction is contemplated in the Minning Law approved by the National Assembly and will be put into action through legislative decree (Ley Habilitante) by the President of the Republic.

We reaffirm that this is not a simple “reform.” We are facing modifications that damage and violate the fundamental and basic principles established in the original articles of the Constitution.

To summarize, the constitutional “reform” wants to establish, as a vital legal principle, the guarantee of government authority through continual reelection, the militarization of society, the flexibility of labor (the progressive loss of labor rights), the concentration of political power in the Presidency of the Republic and the control of social movements — all of which, it must be noted, are actions dictated by the global centers of power.

This reform of the Magna Carta is no solution to the problem of social insecurity, unemployment, housing, health, education, machismo, violence in the home and against women, the lack of a safety-net that is afflicting so many Venezuelans: particularly in the most oppressed and exploited sectors of society. These ills, peculiar to the development of capitalism in Venezuela, have been intensified in the last 9 years due to the corruption, improvisation and inefficiancy of this government and in spite of the fact that we are living in the middle of the largest and most sustained fiscal bonanza in the country’s history due to the enormous profits derived from the rise in oil prices.

A permanent social struggle against all established structures of power is the only way to successfully get rid of this document: to make concrete the realization of the rights defined as universal, indivisible and mutually dependent that are expressed in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights which proclaims in its first article: “All human beings are born free and equal in dignity and rights. They are endowed with reason and conscience and should act towards one another in a spirit of brotherhood.” Human rights are non-negotiable with capitalism in any context and under any circumstance. The hard won victories of the past, earned through the historical struggle of the Venezuelan people, threaten to be confiscated with this reform.

We call upon workers, farmers, indigenous peoples, the excluded, students, intellectuals, those deprived of their liberty, as well as social organizations — which is to say all of the people — to reject the “reform.” It is a disguise for the establishment of capitalism within a Military State, following the Chinese and Cuban models, thereby guaranteeing a more efficient and servile local administration of the neo-liberal globalization project.

Only the social struggles of the people and their organizations which are truly autonomous in the face of state and corporate power will be able to bring about the changes Venezuelan society has demanded since the arrival in these lands of what is so generously called “occidental civilization.”

Caracas, 10-30-2007

The members of the Insurgentes space of Venezuela:

Colectivo Pueblo y Conciencia (Maracay). Anarchist Black Cross of Venezuela (Cruz Negra Anarquista de Venezuela), Grupo Soberanía, El Libertario Newspaper, Grupo Defensores del Bolívar, Ágora27-UCV, Tercer Camino, Cecavid (Lara), Justicia y Paz (Aragua), El Conuco de la Vida (Trujillo), La Libertaria (Biscucuy). Domingo Alberto Rangel, Migdalia Valdez, Victor Felizardo, Victor Poleo, Narlis Díaz, Rafael Uzcátegui, Eudes Vera, Manuel Martínez y Osmar Castillo, Pablo Hernández, Noel León, Rosa Pérez, Guillermo Sira, Nelson Méndez, Lexys Rendón, Humberto Decarli, Hisvet Fernández, Elié Habalian, Luisa Arias, Enrique Márquez, Douglas Fermín, Douglas Bravo, Francisco Prada, Rossabel Arauz, Luís Aguilera, Domingo Andrade, Antonio Decena, María Walter, Fernando Herrera, Esteban Mejías, Luís Silva, Nathaly Vásquez, Ingrid Vegas, Domingo Andrade, Nidia Cárdenas, Luis Cipriano Rodriguez, Rodolfo Rico. (Firms in permanent increment) -

[The original -in spanish- was published in El Libertario, # 51, November 2007]
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