Thursday, December 06, 2007

What now? 

With the vote on the constitutional reform now over, Chavismo having suffered a very narrow but important defeat, the question turns to what now. What exactly should be the Chavez led movement be looking to accomplish over the next months and years? And how soon should the type of reform that was voted on Sunday be revisited?

Of course, we can't completely answer that at the moment, the reason being that we don't know with any certainty why exactly the proposals were defeated. Still, we can have a discussion of what the general outlines for a path foward should be like.

The following of course will only be my personal opinions on what should be done. Others should feel free to give their own ideas. I suspect the best course of action will be some compilation of all our ideas.

Readers of this blog should all know that I tend to focus on the state of the economy and people's material well being. I consider that to be the determining factor in people's views of those who lead them. In this case that means that as long as Chavez keeps improving people's standard of living he will most likely remain popular, whereas should the economy stumble his support would be greatly weakened. Of course, other quality of life issues such as health care, crime, and education also play large roles.

For those reasons, my first recommendations would be that he put political reform and international relations on the back burner for a while and fix some long standing problems with the economy and crime.

With respect to the economy they need to find policies to further diversify the economy, which has more of an intermediate and long term impact, and they also need to deal with stop-gap measures that were useful at one time but now create too many problems of their own such as price and currency controls. This latter point is what requires more immediate attention.

At the same time, this issue of crime needs to be dealt with head on. It doesn't even need to be debated publically, there is no time for that. Chavez needs to seek out good advice and then act immediately. The population really needs to see some results on this front by the end of next year.

So those two things, fixing some festering economic problems and tackling crime need to be Chavez's primary focus until policies have been found to effectively deal with them - hopefully by the first part of next year.

Once those have been dealt with (but not until!!) Chavez should turn to things which would do much to help solidify the political movement he has built.

One item is the community councils. They truly are the political, social and economic heart of the new society Chavez envisions. So it needs to be known sooner rather than later how well they work and what sort of problems they will run into. If they prove to be unworkable that needs to be known soon so that alternative ideas can be sought out.

To that end, communal councils need to get their funding forthwith and their powers need to be expanded as rapidly as possible. Yes, some of that was supposed to be accomplished with the constitutional reforms, but those reforms aren't necessary to give the communal councils more power at the local level nor to expand their budgets.

We really need in 2008 and 2009 to see the councils trying to run neighborhoods, small towns and cities, and development projects. If they are able to successfully administer those sorts of things then the issue of reform to allow them to run things at the State level and higher can be revisted. Further, and I think this is very important, the more experience people get with these councils the more they will see their value (assuming they have value) and therefore the more comfortable people will be in giving them additional powers through future constitutional reform. The idea is they won't be as much of an abstraction as they were this time.

Finally on the communal councils they need to get up to speed in running companies. Given that this is an entirely new model of economic organization its viability needs to be demonstrated quickly, again so that alternatives can be pursued if these prove unworkable.

Just as important, Chavez's new party, the PSUV, needs to move foward quickly to become a real party. First, people have to be granted membership, right now they are all aspirants, not members, and its democratic structures have to be put in place. Once those structures are put in place allowing for the base to control the party, rather than it being yet one more of Venezuela's top down parties, it should immediately work out its program.

Having a democratically and participatory political party with a well defined program will help streanghen the movement considerably and give people more confidence in the movement. Up until now, what the exact aims of Chavismo are have never been clearly defined. Just as bad, there is no democratic party structure that would allow for new leadership to rise and flourish.

This probably leaves uncertainty in the minds of many people and allows doubts to arise as to the true intention of many things that can be interpreted in various lights (the elimination of term limits being an example). By having a clear program, a democratic political party, and diversified leadership chosen by the base more people would feel ownership over where this process is going and future reforms would, in my opinion, be much more likely to be successful.

So there you have my two phase, four point plan for moving foward

Phase I

1) Fix festering economic problems.

2) Deal with the problem of crime.

Both of these need to be solutions thought out with implementation begun before turning to phase two. If they focussed on they should happend by July 2008.

Phase II

3) accelerate the formation and empowerment of the communal councils.

4) accerlate the formation of the PSUV with full democratization of it, control by the base, and a full program developed.

An important additional point here is that revising the constitution would NOT be revised until all four of these tasks have been carried out.

The second phase would take longer but if pursued aggresively they should be able to see results with the communal councils by late 2009 or early 2010 with the PSUV formation coming even sooner. Even if these go a little slower and aren't completed until 2011 that gives plenty of time for them to be effective aids in ensuring the success of Chavismo with any planned reforms at that time and with the 2012 presidential elections.

So those are my four points on how the country can move foward and Chavismo can solidify itself. If these four tasks are all successfully completed the movement should be well positioned to continue its dominance of the Venezuelan political scene with either Chavez or new leadershop at the helm.

Of course, some may have other ideas. Good. Let the debate begin.


This page is powered by Blogger. Isn't yours?