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Venezuela: the challenge of the new National Assembly


 A leading Venezuelan academic, Vladimir Acosta, analyses the challenges facing the Maduro government as the Venezuelan National Assembly meets for the first time since the victory of the opposition coalition in the December 2015 national elections. Vladimir Acosta argues that “Chavismo must go to the National Assembly to do politics, it has to defend its principles and live alongside the opposition. The political analyst fears that turning the Legislative into a combat zone will mean institutional deadlock, which will result in either a foreign intervention or a military takeover. “This is the moment for Chavismo to do politics with a capital P.” This conclusion, arrived at by the political analyst and historian Professor Vladimir Acosta, is a blunt response to the electoral defeat on 6th December  f the Great Patriotic Pole (the electoral alliance headed by President Nicolas Maduro and the United Socialist Party of Venezuela – PSUV).Venezuelan National Assembly In conversation with Correo del Orinoco, Acosta states that Chavismo “must do politics” in the National Assembly. This does not mean “cooking up deals that stretch their principles”, but rather “the need to live alongside the opposition”. He stresses that “Chavismo must go to the National Assembly to do politics, which does not mean make compromises, but nor does it mean insulting the opposition”. Acosta emphasises that “Chavismo must live alongside the opposition and go to the National Assembly armed with arguments, ready to debate. It must defend the laws it has passed with arguments and not insults. That´s what I call doing politics”. When the new assembly convenes for the first time on 5th January, Acosta suggests that deputies from all sides enter the Federal Legislative Palace (which houses the National Assembly) and choose the Assembly Directorial Board. “After that we can start to discuss things and turn the Assembly into an assembly of serious political discussion”. He fears that if the first, and subsequent, sessions of the new parliament turn into a fight, leading to more economic turmoil in Venezuela:  “If we have an economic crisis that is sinking us and a political crisis that means we can´t function,” what will happen is that there will be “either a foreign intervention or a military coup”. Difficult Moment Acosta confirms that this “is the most difficult moment the process has been through”. In his opinion “there hasn’t been a more conflictive moment or a similar defeat, so much so that it was difficult even to imagine such a situation”. He believes the government “made too many mistakes”. He insists that in Venezuela “an economic war has been taking place for 15 years, and despite this Chavismo has won elections”. He goes on to explain that the economic war is the use of shortages, prices and inflation as a “tool to provoke the fall of the government”. This is why he insists that the Maduro government should be asking “why this election was lost”. He argues that in Venezuela, “the economic war is lead by entrepreneurs, the government gives them dollars at an exchange rate of 6.3 bolivares, they then deposit dollars abroad and sell us products at an exchange rate of a thousand bolivares”. Sharing the Blame Acosta is of the opinion that the executive is to blame for what happened on 6th December 2015. “The Government has been incredibly arrogant”, he argues, so much so that they have gone as far as “not wanting to accept the defeat and kept quiet about the responsibilities of some people”.deputies in Venezuelan Assembly He also thinks that in the Executive there has been short-sightedness, as the Maduro government has failed to see “what others could see” as far as the pain caused by the shortages, cues and inflation are concerned. He argues that the people are not being listened to, “that the authorities are losing touch with the people”, whilst there is also “sectarianism and a denial of all types of criticism”. In short, Acosta  says  there has been arrogance, short-sightedness and deafness from a government which itself does talk “and on television”. He notes that the use of television “is one of the best ways to pervert politics, as is the use of Twitter as if it were the only means of communication”. Acosta stresses that President Nicolas Maduro should have “made an economic and political plan, a plan of governance that took into account many of the things planted by Chavez”. He maintains that approving the Plan de la Patria (The Homeland Plan – a six year plan written by Chavez and implemented by Maduro in 2013 aimed at securing socialism and encouraging socio-economic development) in the National Assembly “was madness, because when the situation in the country changes what was seen as important changes, so fixing these things in law simply ties your hands”. He adds that it is imperative “to take necessary measures regarding currency controls, inflation, hoarding and production”. He explains that the country has not been able to leave behind the oil model, but on the contrary it has become entrenched in it due to the heightened oil prices which allowed for all goods to be imported, a situation that has now radically changed.  Patching over problems Leaders prove themselves in defeats,” says Acosta.  “When you suffer a landslide defeat such as this you must, first of all, recognise your failings and mistakes so that people support you more, instead of denying the mistakes which people can see”. In his opinion the government has “put patches on the economy”, not even daring to say that petrol prices had gone up. Acosta thinks that it is impossible for a law regarding fair prices to work when there are “four different exchange rates”. Queues lasted throughout 2015, according to the academic: “It is unbearable and people have felt that the government is incapable of resolving the issue, that it hasn’t done anything to alleviate the situation”. Therefore, “to blame the people for the defeat, as was initially attempted, is a mistake”. People “have to be aware of how they voted”, but, he adds, “responsibility lies mainly with the government”. Moreover, “social consciousness was not fostered, a paternalistic approach where people came to expect something for nothing was generated”. Do not blame the electoral system In Acosta´s opinion it is a mistake to question the fairness of the Venezuelan electoral system. “I hope this stops. We can’t keep trying to show that we did not lose, that we won because all who abstained would have voted for us, because all the spoilt ballots should have been ours”, or because “the opposition bought votes”. Chavismo has to “humbly accept defeat, it cannot be a sore loser”, says Acosta.  As for the PSUV, he suggests that government officials should not be party leaders. “Currently we have a problem, the President of the country is the President of the party, the ministers are the party leaders”. “There needs to be a revolution within the party. The PSUV bureaucratised, lost touch with the people, and what is left is a mess between party and government”. The two need to be separated. “Representatives are hand-picked and that has to end. Regional leaders have been undermined, when they were the ones that ensured the party remained in touch with the people”.  This is an edited version of an article that first appeared in Spanish in the Correo del Orinoco newspaper: .Translated by Coromoto Febres Cordero

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