Cold Hard Wonk

No sentiment but politics

The Forgetful Senor Chavez

Posted by JJ in Doubletake/Doubletalk, The Other America (Saturday January 20, 2007 at 5:13 pm)

The redoubtable Hugo Chavez has made much hay from higher taxes and renegotiating contracts while the price of oi has soared. But his threat of nationalization, coming as it does just as the price begins to drop again, may not be quite enough to keep his Bolivarian revolution turning heads and attacking priests.

Avid followers of Latin heartthrobs like Sr. Chavez (he does make at least some hearts beat faster) may well recall his introduction, back in 1999, of a new constitution for Venezuela. That document, consolidating a great deal of power in the office of the President, was then touted as the “world’s most advanced constitution”.

But even a document as advanced as that isn’t quite enough for today’s Presidente-on-the-go! No, a modern leader needs powers on more of a baroque scale. Clearly, he’s envious of the Thai government.

After all, if the revolution never ends, who needs law? Legislation is designed to set up long-term rules — the sort of thing that no work-in-progress can really bear to suffer.

So for a country still undertaking the crucial steps towards some future post-revolutionary state, the simplest solution is the obvious one: give the President full authority to rule by decree.

And there are precedents. In 1918, faced with the similar problem of a glorious, ongoing revolution, backward opposition, and the vision of some distant, unknown utopia, the Soviet Constitution was drafted. In section 38, identical ruling authority was granted to the Comissar Council (headed by Lenin). It wasn’t limited to eighteen months, true, but then, the passage of a new constitution in 1924 constituted a time limit of sorts.

From the world’s most advanced constitution to a model of government embraced nearly ninety years ago. And in only seven years. To think that the Venezuelan Congress had forgotten what came of the Soviet. To think that Hugo Chavez has forgotten how amply the lessons of history illuminate the grotesquery of Venezuela’s descent into tyranny.

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