Venezuela's municipal elections: much more than a few mayoralties

There has always been a tense relationship between communes and mayorships.
December 1, 2017

In view of the December 10 municipal elections, communards and revolutionary activists closely associated with some of the most important initiatives in communal organisation in the country have been put forward as candidates for mayor.

This is the case of, among others, Angel Prado of the El Maizal Commune (Simon Planas municipality, Lara state); Augusto Espinoza of the Cajigal Commune (Cajigal, Sucre); Jesus Silva of Alexis Vive (Moran, Lara); and Jose Maria “Chema” Romero of the Bolivar and Zamora Revolutionary Current, involved in the building of the Communal City Simon Bolivar (Paez, Apure).

Although we cannot say this is a mass phenomenon, it is undoubtedly a deeply significant event for various reasons.

There has always been a tense relationship between communes and mayors. With some exceptions, such as that of Torres municipality in Lara state (first with Julio Chavez and currently with Edgar Carrasco), those who assume government functions at the municipal level tend to view with suspicion those spaces where there are initiatives of popular self-government, even if it is just a modest communal council.

This is no ordinary tension: at no other level is the clash between representative and participatory political logics so clearly expressed. We could say that the political earthquake that is the Bolivarian Revolution has its epicentre there: these political logics are tectonic fault lines in constant movement.

Chavismo is precisely the political subject that embodies the historic effort that gave rise to this earthquake. Nonetheless, in the name of necessary stability, the representative fault line has been slowly imposing itself on the participatory, which ironically could be paving the way for the collapse of everything we have built.

I know many cases of mayors putting all of their efforts into hindering these communal experiences, attacking their leaders who they view more as rivals than as comrades in struggle, occasionally trying to coopt them, and almost always denying them any support.

And it is a fact that, until very recently, the overwhelming majority of these [communal] leaders never took seriously the possibility of becoming a candidate to any office.

It seems to me that this began to change recently with President Nicolas Maduro’s call to elect a National Constituent Assembly (ANC), including with delegates from the communal councils and communes “sector”.

These circumstances obliged our political class, far too inclined towards the logic of representative [democracy], to cede space to a subject that – and one has to insist on this point – is usually viewed as a threat instead of how it should be: as the most advanced segment of the Bolivarian political experiment.

It likewise obliged a part of our communal leadership to take a step forward, not only to force open the political game, but to create the conditions for an urgent renewal of the Chavista political class, as the president himself has proposed tacitly on several occasions.

Of the four comrades mentioned above, only one of them has the “official” backing of the United Socialist Party of Venezuela (PSUV). But the other three are not backed by a handful of parties trying to fish in troubled waters. If that were the case, I know that these comrades would know how to keep them at bay.

Behind them there are thousands of people who continue to see the Bolivarian Revolution as the possibility of putting into practice another form of politics, one that we learned with Chavez.

It is normal that leaders with these characteristics are rejected by those who have turned the PSUV into a synonym of sectarianism and bureaucratism, imposing “leaders” severely questioned by the people. This should not intimidate us: we do not have any other alternative than to continue fighting to put things in their place.

In the specific case of the ANC delegate Angel Prado, of the El Maizal commune, there are many hurdles that he must surpass to register as a candidate for mayor of Simon Planas in Lara, despite having the support of the majority of the people.

The regional branch of the National Electoral Council has told him that until he has the permission of the ANC leadership, he cannot become a candidate.

I am sure that this has nothing to do with the fact that Angel Prado is not the “official” candidate of Chavismo. No one could be so thick-headed as to reject the will of the majority and, in the process, put in doubt something that has cost us so much effort to establish: the credibility of the electoral arbiter.

What is at stake is much more than a few mayoralties. Something more is happening. It is the foundations of our homeland that are trembling, which means that it’s still alive, that they have not succeeded in burying us. 

[Reinaldo Iturriza is a former Venezuelan Minister for Communes and academic. This article, first published on Iturriza’s blog El Otro Saber y Poder, was translated by Lucas Koerner for Venezuela Analysis. It has been slightly abridged.] 

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