Venezuelan National Assembly Passing “Popular Power” Package of Laws

Mérida, December 10th 2010 (Venezuelanalysis.com) – Late last night Venezuela’s National Assembly approved the new Organic Law of Popular Power,  and this afternoon it passed the Organic  Law of Popular and Public Planning. The two laws form part of a group of five “popular power” laws that aim to transform the state structures of planning and decision making to involve more grassroots organisations.


The National Assembly began its second round of discussions of the block of laws this week. Together the laws promote decentralisation of power, collective property, self government, and the Government Federal Council as the planning organisation.


The Government Federal Council was formally created at the start of this year and consists of ministers, mayors, governors, and communal council and social movement representatives planning the national budget.


However, beyond meeting at a national level, it has been meeting at the local level with groups of communal councils to discuss the allocation of funding and resources to specific projects that are of a collective interest such as public works, schools, and hospitals.


The five laws that make up the block are: The Organic Law of Popular Power, the Organic Law of Popular and Public Planning (both of which were first discussed on 16 December 2009), the Organic Law of Communes, the Organic Law of Social Auditing (both of which were first discussed on 22 June this year) and the Organic Law for the Development and Promotion of the Communal Economy.


First vice president of the National Assembly, Dario Vivas, said the laws will allow for the strengthening of popular power and complement already existing laws such as the Communal Council Law and the Government Federal Council Law.


Legislator Augusto Montiel said the packet of laws was necessary for creating the conditions to transform the current “bourgeois state”.


“To be able to put an end to the bourgeois state that we still have, we need to create conditions for the development of a community-based, communal, democratic, protagonistic and revolutionary state. That is, to create a state that doesn’t allow power to be concentrated in the hands of a few privileged people,” Montiel said.


According to the National Assembly press, the block of laws was open to “broad national consultation” with the participation of the minister for communes, communal councils, legislators and the president of Venezuela.


Organic Law of Popular Power


Legislator Ulises Daal said the Popular Power Law, with its 134 articles, is about the direct participation of the communities in public management, and that such a concept was supported by Article 5 of the constitution.


Article 7 of the law states that one of the law’s aims is to “promote the strengthening of the organisation of people in accordance with consolidating revolutionary protagonistic democracy… and the creation of communal and community self-government forms.”


Socially-owned productive organisations should have priority when any public power organisation needs goods, services or works carried out, as stated in Article 29 of the approved law.


The Popular Power Law defines popular power organisations as when people are organised based on where they live or their daily lives, forming organisations made up of citizens with common interests and objectives in order to overcome difficulties and promote collective well being. Specific self-government organisations of popular power are the communal councils and the commune, among others.


Daal said that as long as the people organise through such forms of self government, “No one will ever be able to take power away from the people”.


Law of Popular and Public Planning


The Law of Popular and Public Planning, approved this afternoon, incorporates communal councils and communes into the national planning system.


“This law is aimed at laying the basis for planning that allows for the administration of resources in an efficient way, to then achieve a fair distribution of the wealth,” said Daal.


The law forms and outlines the organisation and functioning of the National System of Public Planning, a system which aims to optimise the processes of defining, formulating, executing, and evaluating public policies.


Making up the National System of Public Planning are the state, municipal, commune, and communal council public planning councils as well as the communal councils and the Government Federal Council.


The National Assembly report of the law states that it institutionalises “a methodology that is centred on the coordination among entities so that public planning, as a political instrument, orientates the actions of the state”.


The law, according to the report, provides for broad and mass participation in determining objectives of plans, their application, and possible future revision.


Opposition response


Discussion of the Law of Popular Power finished at 11:35pm last night because, according to the National Assembly's report, opposition legislators tried to block the approval of all the different chapters and articles.


Daal said the opposition legislators, “fear the transference of power to the organisations of popular power because they know that they will lose a lot of their quotas of power in the state and regional governments.”


The main opposition coalition, the Democratic Unity Roundtable (MUD) said the packet of laws “threaten the future of democracy” and the Law of Popular Power is unconstitutional because it “uses terms that aren’t contemplated in the constitution such as social auditing, communal economy, popular power, communal economic system, socialism, and communal self-government.”


Legislator Juan Molina, of opposition party Podemos said the laws “were already rejected in the Constitutional Reform” referendum in 2007, and legislator Ricardo Gutierrez, also of Podemos, said the approval of the laws was equivalent to a “coup d’état”.


Daal responded that articles 70, 118, 169, 173 and 184 of the constitution support the law package as they refer to popular participation, the rights of communities to develop “associative forms” involving any type of legal economic activity, and different types of local organisation, decentralisation, and transference of authority to the communities.


The approved laws now go to the national executive to enact them and then when they are published in the Official Gazette they will become applicable. The current National Assembly, with almost all its members in the governing United Socialist Party of Venezuela due to an opposition boycott in the 2005 elections, will end its term this 5 January.

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