From the 1999 Constitution:
The Public Power is distributed between the Municipal Power, the State Power and the National Power. The National Public Power is divided in Legislative, Executive, Judicial, Citizen and Electoral.
Each one of the branches of the Public Power has its own functions, but the organs on which its exercise pertains will collaborate with each other in accomplishing the aims of the State.
To the Chavez proposal:
The Public Power is distributed territorially in the following form: the popular power, the municipal power, the state power and the national power.
Regarding the content of the functions that it exerts, the public power is organized in Legislative, Executive, Judicial, Citizen and Electoral
The people are the holder of the sovereignty and they exert it directly through the Popular Power. This one is not born of the suffrage nor of election, but it is born of the condition of organized human groups as a basis of the population.
The Popular Power expresses constituting the communities, the communes and the self-government of the cities, through the communal councils, workers councils, the student councils, the farmers councils and other beings that the law indicates.
In order to discuss this article not many words are needed since not even the amazing revolutionary lexicon, – I won’t take out any credit for that – cares to make any effort to hide the real nature of the proposal.
First, it introduces a brand new figure to the Venezuelan political system, the Popular Power, leaving the rest of the powers almost intact – you could say. It also divides the power in two groups: one according to the territorial distribution and another according to the functions.
If the power is distributed territorially it has to claim some way of hierarchy (the national power upper layer is the state power and the municipal power refereed as the most local one). The proposed reform seems to give the higher hierarchy to this new Popular Power.
-That is actually very progressive! – One could argue – since it is giving to the people [us] even more power than the one the very same state has. The people over the institutions! – A classic dream of which I won’t discuss the practical consequences of it in this space but I will rather just say that nothing could be far away from that dream of giving all the power to the citizens (so called, the people) than this reform as soon as the next lines we read tell us what the Popular Power its all about.
The popular Power as far as this article concerns, gives to the reader a shape of an immense network of –also popular- organizations that at the end are the ones who seem to exert this power and are the only ones authorized to do it. The citizen – it doesn’t matter if you have time for those organizations or if you are familiar or not with the organizations’ ideology – can only be a citizen if he’s a member of any of those organizations. You have to add to this issue the fact that these organizations will have to be authorized by the state.
In that way, it’s not hard to imagine this network of the so called Popular organizations as a new and impenetrable bureaucracy between the citizen and their individual rights.
But the problem goes farther than that: the new article suppress the direct vote of any citizen at least on the matters that concerns the Popular Power (we are still not quite sure of those matters). For a revolution who has spoken over and over again about the promise of a more direct democracy; the word “directly” carefully written in the reform takes now a brand new meaning becoming without doubt the opposite:
“is not born of the suffrage nor of election, but it is born of the condition of organized human groups as a basis of the population”.
As you can see, elections are now discarded in any way to exert this Popular Power because it is saying that the councils themselves, instead of the citizens as individuals, are going to be able to vote in their representation.
In replacement of the vote, the article establishes certain “condition” that will allow the people (hard to tell here if by people this article refers now to the citizens, the councils, or none of them). This “condition” might sound inspiring but its meaning on practical terms is certainly vague and even, dangerous for the preservation of a democratic system. [editor's note: "condición" in Spanish refers much more to the nature, the situation of the person than to an actual condition to be met]
Vague because we don’t count with the vote of the citizens so other ways are needed to translate this condition and the article doesn’t bother on giving us any clue on how to start.
And dangerous because the easiest way that comes to my mind to translate this condition, is through an interpreter able to understand it, who’ll tell us what to do to make us sure that this Popular Power is being really exerted. Now, this interpreter cannot logically be a normal citizen, it must be someone special, someone from the people, someone loved by the people, someone that has in its soul, the soul of the people. I haven’t met or heard such a special person yet, but certain speeches makes me suspect of the man who wrote the reform itself, imagining this non precedent condition of organized human groups.
On synthesis, the article 136 creates a new power: The popular power which, even counting that its certainly translated as the “Power for the people” suppress the possibility of that people to exert it through the vote; putting an emphasis on the several councils (communal, farmers, student and so on) as the way to exert it. So, with the name of Popular Power, the article adds to the political system a new bureaucracy made of -government promoted and probably carefully watched –organizations (councils). [note added by the editor: many of the public proceedings of such councils end up in raised hands vote, and many in the voting session wear red shirts or are known to work with the government. The reader may draw his or her own conclusions]
These councils will become the “condition” of the people (since the organized people are now established as the basis of the population leaving the non organized people practically without a citizenship) and only through that “condition” (no vote) the Popular Power will be exerted.
The issues that this Popular Power is going to take care of remain unclear, but no matter what those issues are the most important thing to notice here is that the citizen will have no direct access to make their opinions, stances or demands on those issues since the vote could clearly suppressed.
If someone asked me to put the meaning of this article in just a couple of words, I would said that, ironically, the proposed reform of the article 136, with the creation of the Popular Power kills with no mercy the sovereignty of the people.
Julia_1984, one of the "dissenting students", opened her own blog early this year “The end of Venezuela as I know it”
e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org, Subject: Art 136
This blog was created by a group of bloggers to explain to the outside world why the Venezuelan constitutional reform is dangerous for Venezuelan democracy.
Oct 1, 2007
From the 1999 Constitution: