Chavez Announces Nationalizations, Constitutional Reform for Socialism in Venezuela

Caracas, January 8, 2007 (venezuelanalysis.com)— During the swearing-in ceremony of his new cabinet, Venezuela’s President Chavez announced a series of dramatic new measures for moving ahead in establishing 21st century socialism in Venezuela. Among these new measures are the convocation of a new constitutional assembly and the re-nationalization of key industries.


In his speech Chavez characterized the preceding years of his presidency, 1999-2006, as a “phase of transition,” which ends now, and that “we are now entering a new era, the National Simon Bolivar Project of 2007-2021.” This project would head towards “Bolivarian Socialism, which requires greater levels of effort and engagement, clarity and efficiency, and revolutionary quality,” said Chavez. The year 2021 is significant for Chavez because it is the 200th anniversary of Venezuelan independence.


This new project, which Chavez promised to outline in greater detail during his own swearing-in on Wednesday, for his second full presidential term, consists of five “motors”: an “enabling” law, constitutional reform, popular education, reconfiguration of state power, and explosion of communal power.


1. Enabling law (ley habilitante), which Chavez referred to as the “mother law” of the project. This law would allow Chavez, over the period of one year, to pass laws on specified issues as decrees. This type of law has been given to Venezuelan presidents on several occasions before, such as during the first presidency of Carlos Andrés Perez (1974-1979) and early in Chavez’s presidency, following the passage of the 1999 constitution, to bring the country’s laws up to date to the new constitution.


Chavez said that part of this enabling law would be the nationalization of key industries that had been privatized under previous governments, such as the telecommunications company CANTV and the electricity companies. “All of that which was privatized, let it be nationalized,” said Chavez.


CANTV’s shares dropped by 14.2% following the announcement, until the New York Stock Exchange halted trading of CANTV shares. The former state company was privatized in 1991.


Also, his government would push for changing the minority stake the state oil company has in four Orinoco Oil Belt projects into a majority stake. The four Orinoco joint ventures are with the U.S. companies ExxonMobil, Conoco, and Chevron, France’s Total, Britain’s BP, and Norway’s Statoil. Together these produce 600,000 barrels of oil per day, about 18% of Venezuela’s total production. This move follows an earlier move to create joint ventures out of foreign companies’ operations in marginal oil fields.


Chavez also suggested that other revolutionary laws would be passed per decree as part of this enabling law. The text of the enabling law is nearly ready and would soon be presented to the National Assembly.


2. Constitutional reform is the second motor for the new phase of the Bolivarian Revolution. Chavez did not say what kinds of changes he envisioned, other than to say that this would require a “constituent power” [constitutional assembly]. Just as eight years ago we convoked [this power], I invoke and convoke the constituent power, the popular [grassroots] power, the true combustible so that these motors that I am talking about can bring us to a better future.”


One constitutional change Chavez did mention today would be to abolish the independence of the Central Bank, saying that such independence is a tool of neo-liberalism. Another change that Chavez has mentioned in the past is the possibility of getting rid of the two-term limit for presidential terms.


3. The third “motor” is the launch of a new drive for “Bolivarian popular education,” which would, “deepen the new values and demolish the old values of individualism, capitalism, of egotism,” said Chavez.


4. “A new geometry of power for the national map,” said Chavez is the fourth “motor,” which he admitted sounded rather abstract. Chavez explained that what he was referring to was the need to reorganize political power in Venezuela, so that the marginalized poorer areas, such as Apure state, would be more included. Also, he said that a law that his supporters had passed, the law of municipal councils, was not working and needed to be reformed.


5. Explosion of communal power, said Chavez, is the most powerful motor of this next phase. According to Chavez, this refers to giving more power to the recently created communal councils of 200 to 400 families, which would eventually eclipse the existing power structures, so as to create a “communal state.” What is needed, said Chavez, is to “dismantle the bourgeois state” because all states “were born to prevent revolutions.” Instead, the old state would have to be turned into a “revolutionary state.”


OAS General Secretary is an “Idiot” (Pendejo) for Interfering in Venezuela


Defending his decision not to renew the broadcast concession of the oppositional TV station RCTV, Chavez attacked OAS General Secretary Miguel Insulza, who had urged Chavez to reconsider the decision. RCTV’s broadcast concession is to expire in late May and Chavez announced last week that he would not renew it because RCTV has been acting irresponsibly because of its support of the 2002 coup attempt and of the oil industry shutdown.


According to the AP, Insulza issued a statement last week in reaction to Chavez’s announcement, in which he stated, “The closing of a mass communications outlet is a rare step in the history of our hemisphere and has no precedent in the recent decades of democracy,” Insulza also warned of the “political repercussions” that the action could bring.


He went on to say that any move that forces RCTV to close “gives the appearance of a form of censorship against freedom of expression and at the same time serves as a warning against other news organizations, leading them to limit their actions at the risk of facing the same fate.”


Chavez reacted very angrily to Insulza today, saying that Insulza is an “idiot” (pendejo) and called for his resignation. A General Secretary “who reaches this level must, out of dignity, leave his office,” said Chavez, adding, “Unless someone wants to once again convert the OAS into what Fidel Castro once called … the ministry of the colonies.”


Venezuela would denounce Insulza in the next OAS meetings because of “interference and lack of respect.” “We are not afraid, you are quite wrong,” said Chavez, addressing Insulza.


Venezuela has received widespread international criticism for the plan not to renew the RCTV concession, but Chavez has said that he does not care about such reactions and that his decision was irreversible and completely within the scope of Venezuelan law, which gives the executive discretionary power over the renewal of broadcast licenses. Venezuela’s communications minister Willian Lara has suggested that RCTV does not need to close once its license runs out because it sells programs throughout the continent and it could also opt offer its programming on cable.




 Chavez Swears-In New Cabinet for “Venezuelan Path to Socialism”


Venezuela’s President Hugo Chavez swore in 15 new and 12 continuing members of his cabinet today. The cabinet shake-up comes as Chavez is about to renew his own oath of office on Wednesday, at the start of his second full term as President of Venezuela. According to Chavez, the new ministers will be in charge of pushing forward his government’s project of implementing “21st century socialism” in Venezuela. Many of the new ministers, seven, come from the National Assembly, and almost all from Chavez’s own MVR party.


Holding the first speech during the ceremony, former Vice-President José Vicente Rangel clarified that although he and other ministers were leaving the government, they “are not leaving the revolution.” Rangel went on to honor his successor in the office of vice-president, with whom he has had a lifelong friendship, particularly through Jorge Rodriguez’s murdered father, who was a leader of the Venezuelan left in the 1970’s.


Rodriguez returned the praise, during his speech, saying that Rangel was the first person he ever voted for, for President, when he turned 18 in 1983. Rodriguez went on to say that the recent presidential election of December 3rd was not an ordinary election, but one that, “obliges us to advance, to resolve the tremendous problems that still exist.” Rodriguez also expressed his support of the decision to not renew the broadcasting concession of the oppositional TV station RCTV, saying that this is a right that any state has in a democracy, implying that since the non-renewal was announced prior to the election, this is what the population wants.


Chavez swore his ministers into office with an unusual oath that had them paraphrase the oath that national independence hero Simon Bolivar swore when he began fighting for Venezuelan independence from Spain, adding to the oath that the goal would not only be Venezuelan independence, but also socialism. According to that oath, they would “never rest arm or soul in the construction of the Venezuelan path towards socialism.”


The new ministers are the following:


Rodrigo Cabezas, who had previously headed up the finance commission of the National Assembly (AN) is the new finance minister, replacing long-time Chavez protégé Nelson Merentes, who will join the board of directors of Venezuela’s Central Bank.


Luis Acuña, an MVR representative from the eastern Venezuelan state of Sucre, is the new Minister for higher Education, replacing history professor Samuel Moncada.


Chavez’s brother, Adán Chavez, is moving from the Ministry of the Presidency to the Ministry of Education, replacing one of Chavez’s longest serving ministers, Aristóbulo Isturiz.


The doctor and MVR deputy in the AN, Erick Rodriguez, is the new Minister of Health, replacing Francisco Armada.


The deputy for the Communist Party, David Velasquez, is the new Minister for Popular Participation, replacing retired General Garcia Carneiro. Velasquez was the main person who wrote the new communal council law, which is now transforming local governance in Venezuela and whose implantation falls under the auspices of the Popular Participation ministry.


Another long-serving minister to leave is Yadira Cordova, who was Minister for Science and Technology. The new minister for this post is Hector Navarro, who used to be Minister for Higher Education, until about a year ago.


The new Minister of Labor is AN deputy José Ramón Rivero, who takes over from Ricardo Dorado.


Yuvirí Ortega, who is the ex-president of Hidrocentro, which is the state company responsible for assuring the potable water supply of three of Venezuela’s states, is the new Minster for the Environment. She is replacing Jacqueline Faría.


Chavez swore in Titina Anzuaje as new Minister for Tourism, replacing Wilmer Castro Soteldo. Anzuaje also comes from the AN and is one of the founders of the pro-Chavez group Clase Medio en Positivo (Middle Class in Positive).


The new Minister of the Office of the Presidency, which functions as the Chief of Staff of the President, is Hugo Cabezas, who for several years headed up the Office of Identification (ONIDEX), which issues identity documents and visas. Chavez’s brother Adán Chavez previously headed this ministry for a little less than a year.


Chavez also created two new ministerial posts, for Telecommunications, to which he appointed the former Minister of the Interior, Jesse Chacón, and a Ministry for Indigenous Affairs, to which he named the long-time indigenous activist Nicia Maldonado.


Last week Chavez had already announced that AN deputy Pedro Carreño would be the new Minister of the Interior and of Justice, replacing Jesse Chacón.


The new Vice-President, who in Venezuela is named by the President, is former Electoral Council President Jorge Rodriguez, replacing José Vicente Rangel.


Confirmed in their ministerial posts were Rafael Ramirez as Minister of Energy and Petroleum and as President of the state oil company PDVSA, Nicolas Maduro as Foreign Minister, Maria Cristina Iglesias as Minister of Light Industry and Commerce, Willian Lara as Minister of Communication and Information, and Jorge Giordani, as Minister of Planning and Development. Also confirmed were the Minister for Land and Agriculture Elias Jaua, the Minister of Defense Raul Baduel, Minister for Alimentation Erika Faría, Minister for Popular Economy Pedro Morejón, Minister for Housing and Habitat Ramón Carrizales , Minister of Culture Francisco Sesto, Minister for Integration and Foreign Commerce Gustavo Márquez, Minister for Infrastructure José Cabello, and Minister of Basic Industry and Mining José Khan.


It is unclear what the parting ministers’ new positions will be, but in the past Chavez has often given them ambassadorial posts.



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