Citizenship or militarism

By Luis Manuel Aguana

Intergenerational human bridges connect us with history and with our past. Perhaps from there we should learn lessons that will help us find our way out of this nightmare that uses the worst of our people to endure and strengthen itself, in a kind of endless vicious circle that gets worse and worse as time goes by.

Don Rafael Grooscors Caballero is one of those human bridges. I am told an anecdote about Guido Grooscors Caballero, his older brother, when he was secretary to the then candidate Rómulo Gallegos before the December 1947 elections. On a mule ride through Humocaro Alto, in Lara State, a peasant was shouting in the crowd at the then-campaigning presidential candidate, “General, General!” trying to get his attention. Don Romulo, in his well-known voice, said firmly: "I am not a General!"as indicating that Venezuela was in elections where civilians would be the ones who would change the country's history. The peasant, with that clear sardonic intelligence of the Venezuelan people, replied: “No, but you will be...”.

That little anecdote sums up 200 years of republican history. That peasant was not speaking to Rómulo Gallegos, a civilist and presidential candidate for an election. He spoke to a power figure who has always led the destiny of Venezuelans: the military. But beyond that, the anecdote reveals that even if Don Rómulo Gallegos rode on the back of a mule to the farthest reaches of Venezuela, the common people would not really believe -and in my opinion still do not believe- in what that citizen figure of Venezuelan letters embodied. He only believed in the factual power that was only in the military and worse, that this citizenship would seek to transform itself into that because we are in Venezuela.

For the pain of all of us that is what has happened in the end, perhaps because militarism has been in the DNA of the people since independence. And perhaps that was the reason why Venezuelans believed that a military man would be the solution to their ills in 1998. That is the most important cultural - and even more so, structural - challenge we must face: that citizen thought be imposed on the militaristic imprint of our past.  However, we have gone back more than 60 years - or perhaps more - in civil terms, and particularly in the last 20 years to do so. So we need a plan, rather than a return to the civil, which we never really had, to undertake the construction of a new and genuine citizenship. What we have enjoyed so far is a mirage of it, and facing its gestation after this setback will be a political challenge.

But if we add to all this the systematic destruction of the military institution as we knew it before 2002 by Hugo Chávez, to build instead a militarist and communist apparatus to sustain this system in power, things get much more difficult. From the excellent work of Federico Boccanera (see in Spanish, The business of conspiracy in Venezuela, in http://www.lacabilla.com/ContenidoOpinion/opinion/el-negocio-de-la-conspiracion-en-venezuela-por-federico-boccanera/991) we extract the following: “The Bolivarian national armed force is the most finished work of Hugo Chávez, the one that he was able to finish before he died, is his true legacy, and is the historical culmination of a long process of convergence -which Chavismo finds natural- between Venezuelan political militarism and the militarist political system par excellence, communism, which transforms its leaders into commanders, societies into armies, citizens into troops, and enshrines a state of permanent war.”

Worst of all, this militarist construction is structured in the 1999 Constitution. Boccanera confirms in his article some of the reasons why in ANCO we believe it is necessary to change this constitution immediately: “These military mafias are untouchable and have accumulated wealth and power not through abuse, but through the supreme design of the Chavista state, whose constitution of 1999 eliminated the requirement of civilian authorization for promotion to senior officers and granted them the privilege of a merit trial, eliminated the prohibition of the simultaneous exercise of military and civilian authority, and eliminated the apolitical and non-deliberative character of the military institution, granted the military the right to vote, and most importantly, established a doctrine of national security and integral defence, which must be governed by the principle of "co-responsibility between the State and civil society", which must be exercised in the economic, social, political, cultural, geographical, environmental and military spheres (Constitution of the Bolivarian Republic of Venezuela, chapter II of the principles of National Security, art. 326)”

Accordingly, military mafias abuse power not because they can do so by force, but because they are constitutionally empowered to do so! Could one then expect that some officer who emerged from that same distorted superstructure, specially built by Chávez to deepen the militarist state in Venezuela, would insist on changing the state of things, with the aim of placing the country on a path where civil and constitutional power prevails within the framework of the rule of law? Obviously not.

And that's what the country is surprisingly waiting for and what those who traffic in the conspiracy as a business are taking advantage of, as Boccanera describes very well in his article. And to think that there are still Venezuelans who in good faith reject a new Constituent in order to change that, in the belief of the message repeated thousands of times by the regime that this is the best constitution in the world.

Paradoxically, however, the 1999 Constitution works in two opposite directions, paradoxically, 1) guaranteeing the military's permanence in government, with an unlimited power that has never had any group in the past, as has been described; and 2) leaving the door open for the people themselves, with their prerogative of civil, citizen and constitutional participation, to change this situation (Articles 347, 348, 349 and 350).

In this way, the military situation described as a fatal design gravitating over the Republic can only be tackled as a citizen by the people, not only by speaking out in a civil manner against this military superstructure through a Popular Consultation, but also by calling for a change in it within the framework of a new National Constituent Assembly of an Original character by popular initiative.

We could never hope, given the constitutional prerogatives of the military mafias, that a situation of kidnapping of the population would be resolved by those who originated it. If the people do not speak out and stand up as a whole, civilly achieving a change of what was deliberately distorted by “the supreme design of the Chavista state”, there will be no change in the current state of affairs in Venezuela. That is how serious and important the immediate consideration of a Popular Consultation by the population is.
And that's what it's all about, letting the Venezuelan people decide. Either the people are in favor of the citizenship, or we have already been defeated by militarism....

Caracas, April 4, 2018

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