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On November 15, Constituent Deputy Earle Herrera was interviewed by the journalist and culture minister Ernesto Villegas. Herrera’s interesting interview was flawless, but one aspect caught the public’s attention in a powerful way.
In it, Herrera confessed that ministers often refuse to answer their phones when he calls them to discuss matters concerning people’s problems, despite him being a member of the sovereign and all-powerful National Constituent Assembly.
He went on to explain that this internal breakdown in communication often forces him to express what he has to say in his articles instead.
Following this, on November 22, President Nicolas Maduro said [during a public address] “I heard Earle’s criticism in the interview with Ernesto Villegas about being tired of calling ministers or governors regarding requests from so and so, and this is very wrong! Ministers or officials must respond to the people’s requests.”
When we are aware that we are living through times with the Sword of Damocles of the US Empire hanging over us, causing a great deal of harm to the Venezuelan people, Herrera’s “confession” becomes all the more significant.
Apart from the threat hanging over us, we also have to deal with what we could (for convenience sake) call ‘Bolivarian bureaucrats’ who hold offices such as minister, director, or president of a state company. The Bolivarian bureaucrat is an official who has to serve the public but turns into a kind of vulture that assists the empire in its efforts to undermine the grassroots support of the Bolivarian revolution.
Definition of a bureaucrat
For the German sociologist Max Weber, “bureaucracy” does not have a negative connotation. Rather, it refers to a body of officials who make their careers in the State apparatus and turn it into an organisation that fulfils its functions in light of the demands of the moment.
For the heroic guerrilla fighter Ernesto ‘Che’ Guevara, there were three fundamental causes for the bureaucratisation in a revolution. The first is the “lack of interest of an individual to serve the State and to overcome a given situation.” This, he claimed, is due to conformism or the absence of revolutionary consciousness (the lack of an internal engine).
The second, he explained, is “excessive centralisation without perfect organisation,” which slows down “spontaneous action but does not substitute it with a system delivering the needed order and on time” (lack of organisation).
The third is “the lack of sufficiently developed technical know-how to be able to make fair and rapid decisions.”
“These three root causes impact, one by one or via different conjugations, a lesser or greater proportion of bureaucracy throughout the institutional life of the country,” he goes on to say.
On November 20, President Maduro told the country that he “needs the help of the National Assembly [which will be newly elected on December 6] to control the government and pursue corruption and bureaucracy, as well as to censure officials.” He also said that the new Assembly should “pay special attention to those who are dressed in red but are corrupt bandits. I’m done with those so-called reds that are corrupt.”
Characteristics of the Bolivarian bureaucrat
The bureaucrat, like the corrupt politician or official, is “an internal enemy” of the Bolivarian revolution that must be defeated.
Today’s bureaucrat is worse than that of the [pre-Chavez era known as the] Fourth Republic because at that time collective ethics were not at stake and personal interests dominated under a utilitarian conception of the people. But in the case of the Bolivarian revolution, the bureaucrat lets down those who have opted for a new way of doing politics with morality and ethics.
Bolivarian bureaucrats show off flaunting their power. They are indiscreet and do not give a hoot about others opinions. They are self-absorbed, selfish and narcissistic.
They love to boast, especially to the poorer people. They aggressively drive around in their new SUVs accompanied by security officials or policemen who stop traffic so that the “bureaucrat” may pass. The Bolivarian bureaucrat “mentally masturbates,” negating any revolutionary conditions they may claim to have. At the same time and while these bureaucrats flaunt their ostentation, more and more Venezuelans are poking through garbage without anything to eat. It’s sad but it’s true.
Bolivarian bureaucrats like to have personal chefs, drive around in groups with various cars and motorbikes and have several bodyguards.
The Bolivarian bureaucrat who is obliged to receive mere mortals in their office often responds with disdain. They tell the public that the meeting will be “mid-morning or mid-afternoon,” which in plain language means that one will probably end up waiting for several hours, with a good chance that the meeting be suspended.
This type of official always carries several cell phones. They use them to immediately answer calls from “high political and economic spheres” while others will be answered by assistants. They always refuse to ride on the subway and much less in transport used by normal people.
The Bolivarian bureaucrats really like good food. They often visit the restaurants of [Caracas upper-class areas of] Las Mercedes, La Castellana, Altamira or El Hatillo. City centre restaurants, or those in popular sectors, are not visited under any terms. They practice the “good life” maxim.
When an ordinary citizen has to carry out an administrative procedure in a public registry or notary, especially if it is commercial, they will immediately see the red-shirted Bolivarian bureaucrat acting according to their own rules and making you go through hell. Today, registering a small enterprise, for example, becomes an odyssey, a feat. You have to arm yourself with plenty of patience and repeat Pablo Neruda’s verse: “Only with ardent patience will we conquer the splendid city that will give light, justice and dignity to all men. So poetry will not have been sung in vain.” Likewise, maritime, air and land customs regulations are “breeding grounds” for the Bolivarian bureaucrat. A mirroring relationship exists between bureaucracy and corruption, with the first acting as the scaffolding and the base for the second. Tardiness and despair are combined to allow the “under the desk payments” or bribes to develop.
This bureaucrat does not give a damn about local public administration, if trash is collected, if roads are full of holes or if the traffic lights don’t work.
In [state-run electricity corporation] CORPOELEC, Bolivarian bureaucrats often ask for “collaborations” for refreshment when they have to solve the rolling blackouts.
Likewise, those in [Caracas’ state-run water firm] Hidrocapital and their regional partners are blind to the pipeline leaks in drinking water and sewage.
Bolivarian bureaucrats also abound at [state-run telecommunications firms] CANTV and MOVILNET, in [migration and identification office] SAIME, [land transport institute] INTT and in [public banks] such as Banco de Venezuela, Bicentenario and Tesoro.
The worst thing about the Bolivarian bureaucrat is that their victims are the noble people of Venezuela who stoically resist the imperial enemy with great force and consciousness. But people get tired too.
This is why the fight against indolence, indifference, bureaucracy and corruption is a titanic effort that must be carried out every day. This is why it is necessary to ensure that the bureaucrats, with all their subjectivities and “bad habits,” are removed from their posts, however powerful they may be.
Let’s not allow the foreign-based “forces of evil” — which want to drown out the Bolivarian revolution with the internal assistance of some, including their lackeys and other internal enemies which nest within with their red berets and shirts — achieve their objectives.
Finally I leave you with one question: can we really be Bolivarian while practicing state corruption and bureaucracy?
Franklin Gonzalez holds a PhD in Social Sciences. He is the former director of the School of International Studies at the Central University of Venezuela (UCV) and has also taught at the Pedro Gual Foreign Ministry Institute of Advanced Studies. He has served as Venezuela’s ambassador to Poland, Uruguay and Greece.
Translation by Paul Dobson for Venezuelanalysis.