El Pais - English Edition
February 3, 2007
The enabling law passed by the Venezuelan Parliament gives President Hugo Chávez almost dictatorial powers, contrary to any notion of the division of power. It is much more than just another worrying step toward an authoritarian regime, which the former coup leader portrays as socialist and based on the principles of Simón Bolívar. Chávez seems to have paid scant attention to the words of the hero of South American independence: "Have nothing to do with a country where one man has all the power: it is a country of slaves." Until now, Venezuelans opposed to Chávez's regime, and who make up an important minority, have stayed put. But the long queues outside the Spanish, US and other consulates are proof of a growing discontent with a Chávez who is riding roughshod over the law in his bid to take over the institutions of the state.
Parliament is dominated by supporters of Chávez - the opposition mistakenly opted out of the most recent legislative elections - and will be rendered meaningless over the coming 18 months due to the special powers granted to Chávez by the enabling law. He will effectively have absolute rule over the nationalization of the oil industry, the transformation of state institutions, the health and education sectors, the budget and financing, the judiciary and security, and the "popular participation of organized communities." He will also oversee laws to "definitively eradicate corruption" in a regime where such practices have become widespread.
There is no justification in Venezuela for special powers being granted to a president who has ignored the constitutional rules that he himself imposed in 1999. We are witnessing a revolutionary process and concentration of power that began some time ago.
It is no coincidence that the Venezuelan president is to be seen so often at the side of Fidel Castro: his aim is to become the Cuban leader's political successor in Latin America, particularly in light of his declining international support. In the coming months, and without Parliament, Chávez also wants to change the Constitution, and then put the results to a referendum. But with his current hand - along with those accumulated in recent years, as well as control of the judiciary and the media - the democratic process has been paralyzed.
Chávez was the clear winner of the elections of December 3, 2006: his mandate was to continue the policy of increased social spending and to fight poverty and inequality, not to install a dictatorship on the back of presidential decrees.