A former Bolivarian government minister, Hector Navarro, has criticised the internal democracy of the leadership of the United Socialist Party of Venezuela (PSUV).
The comments come as Navarro, a former electricity minister and suspended member of the PSUV’s Directive Council, faces an internal disciplinary hearing over allegedly breaking the party’s code of conduct due to his recent criticisms of President Nicolas Maduro’s administration.
Navarro was suspended from the PSUV’s leadership last month after he publicly backed former planning minister Jorge Giordani, who hit headlines after issuing a stinging critique of Maduro’s leadership following his dismissal from government.
The main points raised by Giordani and Navarro were to call attention to allegations of corruption in the use of off budget funds and preferential currency allocations, to warn of “uncontrolled” public spending, and to accuse planned economic reforms of allowing foreign capital to appropriate oil income.
Giordani also attacked Maduro directly as “a president who doesn’t convey leadership”. President Maduro and other government officials have strongly rejected the allegations, and have indirectly accused those making such criticisms as “betraying” the revolution. The public criticisms also provoked wide debate within chavismo.
Maduro has since announced a comprehensive “shakeup” of his government, and has invited the group of former ministers to “turn the page” while arguing for “constructive criticism and self-criticism”.
However on 11 July Navarro published a second letter, this time attacking the PSUV’s leadership for its handling of his first criticisms by suspending him and subjecting him to a proposed disciplinary hearing.
Navarro argued that his suspension was not legal under the party’s constitution. “To publish a letter can’t be a crime in itself. This isn’t established as punishable behaviour in the statutes of the PSUV,” he said.
The former minister also accused other members of the Directive Council, who he did not name, of spreading “shameless lies” about him to damage his reputation.
Navarro said that the PSUV Directive Council had only been meeting infrequently over the previous year, and that this governing body had been replaced in practice by a High Political Command, composed of government ministers and top party officials.
“The [internal] spaces in which true collective discussions can be held about government and party-related problems are diminishing,” he claimed.
Like other recent public criticisms from this particular group of former government ministers, Navarro’s letter drew both criticism and support from different voices within chavismo.
Jose Avila, a PSUV parliamentarian and head of the National Assembly’s finance committee, said today that there exists ample space for discussion and criticism in the PSUV.
However, he argued that it was not acceptable for top PSUV officials to wash the party’s laundry in public, arguing that this plays into the hands of the opposition by allowing them to claim that the governing party is “tearing itself apart”.
“[In the PSUV] we have deep discussion…but what we don’t do or condone is saying things all over the place when there are spaces to debate within the party,” he said during an interview with private channel Globovision.
The parliamentary deputy also reminded viewers that 20,000 proposals on how to improve governmental performance had been made by the party’s grassroots ahead of the PSUV’s national congress, which begins next week.
Meanwhile, independent pro-government website Aporrea showed sympathy to Navarro’s position, stating in its coverage of his letter, “The arguments presented by professor Hector Navarro put pressure on those who wish to apply disciplinary measures against the crime of [expressing] political opinion in the party founded by [late President Hugo] Chavez, which includes among its principals internal democracy”.