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The Popular Consultation, the Latin American political solution par excellence

By Luis Manuel Aguana

The reaction against the proposal of the National Constituent Alliance to convene a Popular Consultation or a Plebiscite to solve the serious political problem facing Venezuelans was not long awaited, as opposed to the electoral appeal in which the official opposition is embroiled with the regime of Nicolás Maduro. It is always difficult to swim against the tide when the political class imposes an electoral opinion matrix on a country that believes in voting.

However, the Plebiscite or Popular Consultation has been an instrument that has been used in Latin America to resolve transcendental issues in the history of our nations, being the last one carried out in Ecuador that put an end to the continual intentions of Rafael Correa for a clear mandate from the Ecuadorian people. That Plebiscite had 7 questions and its annexes (see What are the seven questions of the popular consultation and the referendum in Ecuador, in Spanish?

However, it is important to start by the obligatory question they ask to our approach, which is none other than why another Popular Consultation is necessary when it was held on July 16,2017 and did not take place, that is, we did not collect it. Also, why embark on a Popular Consultation when the urgency is to first resolve the situation of hunger, food, medicine, violence, and all the other things in the destroyed Venezuela that we have now. These questions are natural in the common people who do not see a connection between the institutional and political with the immediate problems of the population. I will not explain this connection here, but for those interested I suggest reading my first note of the year 2012 “Institutionality: How do you eat that?”
(see in Spanish which can give a clear answer to that question.

The first thing that needs to be said responsibly is that no problem in Venezuela now will be resolved immediately when these criminals who rule over us leave. Clearly, international aid will be essential to calm the great needs of our population. But that aid will only serve to start implementing policies that will get everything back on track that has been destroyed in nearly 20 years. And that won't be immediate even though Venezuela is a country with all the conditions. 

So to say that whatever is undertaken must solve the hunger from the outset is nothing more than disguised populism, aimed at disappointing again this people tired of disappointments. The politically and institutionally correct thing to do is to offer a procedure of constitutional restoration, with defined steps that, if properly followed, will lead to the recovery of democracy and freedom and therefore to normality in all areas, starting with basic needs.

Why is another Popular Consultation necessary? Firstly, the consultation held on 16J was mainly aimed at preventing the regime from convening a Constituent Assembly without having the popular mandate as established in the Constitution: “Do you reject and ignore the realization of a constituent proposed by Nicolás Maduro without the prior approval of the Venezuelan people?”.  Maduro ignored the outcome of that question, which was the first of the well-known trilogy and proceeded with the cheated 30J constituent election, installing a de facto an unconstitutional National Constituent Assembly that must be dismantled. And the only one who can do so politically is the Sovereign People of Venezuela, nobody else.

And why do we say politically? Because already legally the Supreme Court of Legitimate Justice with headquarters in Washington DC, declared in its first sentence the nullity of that National Constituent Assembly of Maduro, giving rise to a unanimous rejection of the International Community to all the acts emanating from that entity. However, this sentence has not been enforced in the formal sphere of the entire State administration in Venezuela.

That sentence must be politically ratified by the people of Venezuela in a plebiscite so that the country's institutions can be continued. The people must then be consulted if they want a legitimate original constituent process that rescues the country's institutions, with the appointment, authorized by the same people, of a Transitional Government and National Unity, and the replacement of the rest of the Public Powers, until a new general election after the approval of a new Constitution.

But this does not answer the question of how we make that consultation effective. And that's the most important thing about all this narrative. Do you think the regime will allow itself to hold a Popular Consultation as it did on 16J? Obviously not. On 16J the regime deliberately let the official opposition make that consultation WITHOUT THE CNE. But why did they do it knowing that without their cheated CNE? That is one of the regime's most important strategic moves in its task of destroying the opposition. By letting us hold that consultation, the regime knew that Venezuelans would get off the streets because we believe in voting as a non-violent instrument to settle our differences. But not the regime.

Upon winning the Popular Consultation, the National Assembly was under an obligation to fulfil the people's mandate to appoint a Government of National Union. But the government knew they wouldn't do it. Why did they know? Julio Borges and the rest of those who on July 4, 2017 told us at the Teatro Chacao that they would fulfill the mandate of civil society. I have an unproven theory that they negotiated that with the regime before. But in the end, those who came out very discredited were them and in favor of the regime, since that provoked one of the biggest disappointments seen in Venezuela after August 15,2004 when we "lost" the Revocatory Referendum of Chávez.

This time the approach is different. This Popular Consultation would not be administered by partisan factors but by civil society with the participation of the parties that wish it, and headed by the Universities, with the support of all the Churches and the most important sectors of the country. What is the approach? To build a "Great Alliance for Popular Consultation, Unity and Reconciliation" to press inside and outside the country through all possible non-violent demonstrations, concentrating all efforts to hold such a Consultation, with adequate international observation and electoral guarantees, and using the help of the entire International Community, led by those who have told us that they would continue to increase sanctions against the government if it does not agree to a democratic, peaceful solution.
Well, the solution that civil society could offer is this. We already gave it to them on 16J and they supported us. If we all now press peacefully from within and the international community from outside on a single point, the government will give in because chaos is the alternative. And the moment the regime is willing to speak, the terms of the negotiation will be very different from those being granted by the official opposition in the Dominican Republic. There it would be negotiating with civil society as a whole, in its most genuine representation, the terms of its exit and at the same time the carrying out of this Consultation with enforceable results, made by the social group and not by the figures who claim to represent us and who have consistently sold the opposing positions of the Venezuelans.

Referendums have been a source of political and peaceful settlement in Latin America. In each case of history, plebiscites have provided solutions in the darkest moments of our countries. No one in Chile thought of running against Pinochet in 1988. They put forward a plebiscite on the continuity of his government's administration.  “The so-called constitutional plebiscite of Uruguay in 1980 took place on November 30 of that year, in full civic-military regime, and is considered by Welp as a typical example of the referendums called by authoritarian governments to try to legitimize themselves in power. The majority of Uruguayans - 57.20% of the voters - nevertheless said "No" to the constitutional reform project submitted for endorsement by the de facto government. And, according to historians and analysts, this vote triggered the democratic opening process that led to the holding of free elections in 1984 and culminated in the arrival of Julio María Sanguinetti as president in March 1985” (see in Spanish Five referendums that have made history in Latin America).

What will be the reason why this political solution par excellence, which is the one that has been applied throughout Latin American history, is not currently being debated in Venezuela, watching the political sectors, amazed, opting for electoral solutions that are clearly destined to fail and perpetuate the regime? We must ask ourselves that very seriously. And I regret to say that reason may lie in the interests of the political groups most interested, not in the solution of Venezuela's problems, but in the solution of their own. It is high time we asserted ourselves as legitimate mourners and assumed the right solution.

Caracas, February 7, 2018


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