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Proposal Details

Proposal ID337
ProposalGreen Party of the United States Policy Statement towards Venezuela
PresenterInternational Committee, Wisconsin Green Party
Floor ManagerBudd Dickinson
Discussion01/14/2008 - 01/27/2008
Voting01/28/2008 - 02/03/2008
Presens Quorum34 0.6666
Consens Quorum55 A Majority of Yes and No Votes




One of the functions of the International Committee is to prepare policy papers as a background for Green candidates, to educate our own membership and the general public about international issues, and to develop and advise on international aspects of the National Platform. The International Committee of the Green Party of the United States has prepared this policy statement on Venezuela to be used by candidates, the media committee, and the general membership in the work of the party.




This paper reviews the Bolivarian revolution, which began with the presidency of Hugo Chavez and aims at transforming Venezuela's capitalistic system toward a new socialistic one, including partial decentralization of state power to more local, popular control. Except for the narrow defeat of the constitutional reform referendum in 2007, the Venezuelan people have supported this revolution at the ballot box. The successes and dangers of this unique Venezuelan experiment are identified. The USGP supports the self-determination of the Venezuelan people and opposes any US interference.



Venezuelan Democracy and Constitutional Reform Under Chavez

Hugo Chavez has become a polarizing figure internationally, alternately regarded as a hero or demon from the opposing ends of the political spectrum (e.g., see Michael Shifter, Foreign Affairs, May/June 2006).


To his supporters, Chavez is determined to bring social justice and equality to millions of mostly impoverished Venezuelans, while bravely standing up to interference from the world‚s sole superpower, the U.S.

To his opponents, especially the Bush administration and U.S. media, the most persistent criticism is that Chavez is anti-democratic--an egomaniacal dictator whose election to the presidency in December 1998 initiated the growing consolidation of power for himself under the guise of helping the poor.

This charge was magnified in the lead up to the December, 2007 vote on Constitutional Reforms to the 1999 Constitution, itself the result of reforms of the old (1961) Constitution, initiated by the first Chavez government. (Between Venezuela‚s independence from Spain in 1811 and 1961 there had been 26 constitutions.)

The 1999 Constitution was drafted by a constitutional assembly created by popular referendum and ratified by a 72% popular vote. This reformed Constitution focused on restructuring Venezuelan government including the establishing a Federal Council on Government to facilitate a process of decentralization and transfer of power from the federal government to states and municipalities (Article 185), and institutionalizing the use of the popular referendum to initiate a constitutional assembly, to reform and/or overturn laws and to recall politicians, including the president. <>

Significantly, the tenor of the new Constitution emphasized the development of human capacities (e.g., Articles 20, 102, 299) and guarantee of human rights, including free education up to the tertiary level, free quality health care, access to a clean environment, „the right and duty of each generation to protect the environment for its own benefit and that of the world of the future,‰ (Article 127), rights of minorities (especially indigenous peoples) and the elimination of the death penalty.

Proposed changes to the 1999 constitution were voted on in the December, 2007 referendum, organized in two Blocks: „A‰ (33 changes to its 350 articles) initiated by Chavez and amended by the National Assembly as well as 13 others proposed by the National Assembly itself; and „Block B,‰ in which all 26 reforms were proposed by the National Assembly. (The National Assembly had voted on the reforms by sections, e.g., „Constitutional Exceptions,‰ containing specific articles, during three special legislative sessions before seeking ratification in the national referendum.) Venezuelans were able to vote each block up or down separately, but not on the sections or articles, a process that has elicited criticism, including by Chavez supporters.

The No vote against the constitutional reform proposal won 50.7 percent to 49.3 percent, with 45% abstaining. About nine million Venezuelans or 50 percent of those eligible, voted, fewer than expected. This appears to reflect the ambivalence many felt about wanting the social policy reforms but not those extending the power of the president, especially the „Constitutional Exceptions.‰ <>

Public education of these proposed reforms was widespread: 10 million copies of the reforms were distributed (in a country with 26 million), with one poll indicating that 77 percent of Venezuelans had read them; national discussions of the changes took place via at least 9000 public events during a 47-day period (August 16 to October 7), and a special hotline through which 80,000 phone calls were made registering the public‚s opinion on the proposed changes. (See Angelo Rivero Santos, Los Angeles Times, November 29, 2007)

Downplayed or unmentioned in the U.S. press were the social policy highlights of the proposed reforms which included decreasing the work week from 44 hours to 36; establishing the first social security fund for the 50 percent of Venezuelans who are self-employed as street vendors, taxi drivers, etc., free university education, prohibiting foreign funding of elections while including gender parity among candidates, outlawing discrimination based on gender and sexual orientation, and lowering the voting age from 18 to 16--changes that European progressives, including Greens, would recognize.

Despite the narrow defeat of the proposed reforms, the current (1999) Constitution still gives Chavez the authority to introduce many of these social policy reforms in the National Assembly or by executive order that must be authorized in advance by an enabling act of the National Assembly. Chavez conceded that the reform proposal lost "for now," suggesting that he may try to initiate these changes sometime before his current term ends in 2012.

Most controversial among the proposed changes were those concerning the increase in presidential power: the president‚s term of office would increase from six to seven years and term limits would be eliminated; the „constitutional exceptions‰ during states of emergency would no longer be limited to 180 days but as long as emergency conditions persist. For example, press freedom („right to information‰) would no longer be protected during these periods; and the Supreme Court‚s approval for the states of exceptions would be eliminated with only National Assembly approval required.

It is important to note that while the elimination of term limits (Article 230) was proposed by Chavez, all the articles under „Constitutional Exceptions‰ (Articles 337, 338, 339) were initiated by the National Assembly itself, though admittedly these elected legislators are predominantly from Chavez coalition parties. (See Gregory Wilpert, Center for Research on Globalization, <>Global Research, November 25, 2007)

In fact, eliminating term limits enhances democracy, as it merely allows candidates to run for office repeatedly while leaving the choice to voters, as is the case in England, France, Germany, Australia, among others.

Instead, the pertinent questions raised here are what conditions prevent Venezuelans--or for that matter, U.S. citizens˜from electing leaders they want, and from having the society they want?

In the U.S., the existence of presidential term limits since 1947 has not facilitated democracy. But more significant structural impediments in the U.S. electoral system remain: a winner-take-all voting system (versus a system of proportional representation); election of presidents by the Electoral College (rather than by popular vote); corporate financing of campaigns (versus public financing); and a centralized and ever homogenizing two-party system to represent a highly diverse population who have little real institutional power at the local level.

Which brings us to the second question raised by the Venezuela‚s proposed constitutional reforms: What facilitates Venezuelans in having the society they want?


The fundamental source of criticism of President Chavez by the Venezuelan opposition and the West (especially the U. S.) is the political economy he envisions: an alternative to capitalism. Thus far, this vision been supported by the majority of Venezuelans at the ballot box.

The Chavez presidency has become synonymous with the Venezuelan or Bolivarian „revolution‰ for this reason. However, at the start, it did not reject capitalism per se but intended to create a different form of it. (Michael Lebowitz, Monthly Review, July-August, 2007). For Chavez, that different form stressed the development of a social economy whose focus is human development rather than the development of capital.

By 2005, Chavez‚ emphasis on creating a social economy (versus a capitalist one) was explicitly termed socialism, but one to be pursued in a form different from that of the Soviet Union. Speaking at the 2005 World Social Forum, Chavez said, „We must reclaim socialism as a thesis, a project and a path, but a new type of socialism, a humanistic one, which puts humans and not machines of the state ahead of everything.‰

Re-elected by a land-slide in December, 2006 on this message of creating a new socialism for Venezuela, the Chavez government moved to empower people at the local, communal level, primarily through the establishment of „communal councils‰ a process which began with the 2006 Law of Communal Councils and viewed as a major vehicle for transforming the state. Currently numbering over 18,000, these local councils are expected to reach 50,000 at the end of 2007, and have responsibility over areas like infrastructure and some social welfare projects, with authority transferred to them from municipal and state governments. (See Chris Carlson, November 23, 2007,

In tandem with state power, according to some analysts (George Ciccariello-Maher, Monthly Review, September, 2007), these councils create a situation of „dual power,‰ which challenges critics who claim that the Venezuelan Revolution is basically a statist one in which Chavez‚ main interest is consolidating power from above.

However, unlike Lenin‚s view of „dual power‰ as operating through the state, Chavez has been influenced by Antonio Negri‚s (1999) ideas of „constituent‰ and „constituted‰ powers, the former referring to the power of people, which can atrophy, become lethargic, and the latter referring to the power of legally constituted structures, which can become inflexible and stagnant.

To understand the ongoing proposed changes in the Venezuelan law and constitution from the viewpoint of Chavez and his supporters (the majority of Venezuelans, who are historically poor and disenfranchised), it is important to consider their view of „law‰ in general. From their „revolutionary‰perspective, law is derived from below, from the people, in order to more closely reflect their social reality rather than the reverse in which their experience must accommodate to a more distant, abstract idea of that experience. (See George Ciccariello-Maher, Monthly Review, September, 2007)

Thus, from the view of Chavez supporters, the Venezuelan revolution and Chavez‚ power are still driven primarily from below. And, in turn, the Chavez government responds by using state power to reactivate this popular--„constituent‰˜power in an attempt to sustain the ongoing dialogue between the state and the local populace. This process was especially apparent in the grassroots defense of Chavez during the 2002 coup attempt by his opposition, in which millions of Chavez supporters rallied to return him to office.

It is unclear how the Venezuelan experiment to create a more just and democratic society will evolve. The Green Party of the United States acknowledges that such social experiments, however well intentioned, are fraught with dangers and can fail. Some of these dangers in the Venezuelan situation include: external interference, especially U.S.; general political and economic instability; the failure of people at the local level (e.g., the communal councils) to assert themselves sufficiently vis-à-vis the state; that internal corruption and cronyism will continue; that the Venezuelan revolution is really a Chavista revolution, dependent on the rule of one man; that the former ruling oligarchy will be replaced by a new Bolivarian oligarchy; that if given more power (e.g., to declare „states of exception‰), Chavez will abuse it; and that as an oil-based economy, Venezuela‚s transition to local economic development and more local control, will not occur in the long term; rather, that the country‚s primary embrace of oil will increase ecological stress, and that the oil income will diminish before the goals of the Venezuelan revolution can be reached.

However, as a political party of the United States, we also recognize that our capitalistic system is not only limited in addressing our significant problems of poverty, growing economic disparity and environmental degradation, but is also a major cause of these social and ecological ills worldwide.

We know that the Venezuelan revolution offers hope and the concrete possibility of a better life for the peoples of Venezuela and perhaps for those throughout Latin America. At this point, we support this experiment primarily by opposing our government‚s interference with it.

Therefore, the Green Party of the United States supports the right of the Venezuelan people to sovereignty and self-determination, and recognizes the democratically-elected government of Venezuela as the legitimate expression of the will and interests of the Venezuelan people.

The Green Party strongly advocates a US policy of friendship and cooperation with Venezuela, and opposes all actions by the US government to intervene in Venezuela's internal affairs, whether by political, economic or military means.

We commend the Venezuelan government for its efforts to promote fair trade agreements, and to support equitable and just economic practices in its relations with developing countries. We also applaud Venezuela's declaration of independence from the International Monetary Fund and the World Bank.

We look forward to other countries‚ emulating Venezuelan programs that have contributed to a 31% drop in the official poverty rate from 1998 to the close of 2006: low-cost food markets, medical clinics, new schools, literacy training, four-legged bookmobiles, university scholarships, worker-owned and run cooperative economic ventures, and the purchase of unutilized acreage for use by landless farmers.

We are grateful for Venezuela's program for providing oil at low cost for the economically disadvantaged in other countries, including here in the US, a policy in sharp contrast to the greed-driven policies of the US oil multinationals.

The Green Party of the United States supports the position of the Venezuelan Green Party in opposing the Chavez government‚s efforts to increase the mining and usage of coal, and in opposing the construction and use of nuclear power. The Green Party of the United States stands with Greens around the world in advocating for efficiency and conservation as a first priority for a sane energy future followed by increased development of renewable energy sources.

Venezuela, public airwaves and the non-renewal of RCTV‚s broadcast license


The Green Party supports the constitutional decision made by the Chavez administration not to renew the broadcast license of Radio Caracas Televisión (RCTV) when it expired, and we denounce the dishonest attempts by US political leaders and the mainstream media to portray this decision as an attack on free speech and freedom of the press in Venezuela. The broadcast spectrum is a public resource under the laws of both Venezuela and of the US, and any nation has the right to hold private corporations accountable to the laws that govern use of the public airwaves.

During the 20-year term of RCTV's broadcast license, the company committed more than 600 violations of Venezuelan laws, including broadcasting pornography, promoting smoking and alcohol drinking, and refusing to pay fines and taxes. By far the greatest crime committed by RCTV, in violation of its broadcast license, was the station's direct role in organizing the April 2002 US-backed violent military coup that temporarily overthrew Venezuela's democratically elected government.

Despite claims by leaders of both major parties in the US, the non-renewal of RCTV's broadcast license is not a case of the Chavez government "silencing dissent." It is a legal and constitutional matter. Venezuela's right to protect the public interest and enforce its own laws must be upheld. The vast majority of media outlets in Venezuela continue to be operated by private entities that oppose the Chavez government. In fact, seventy-nine out of 81 TV stations, 706 out of 708 radio stations and virtually all the Venezuelan newspapers are privately owned, constitutionally protected and uncensored.

The Green Party views the proper role of the news media in Venezuela, the US and all countries, as primarily serving the public interest with investigative reporting from an independent perspective, rather than corporate-sponsored propaganda disguised as "news" that serves the interests and agenda of a powerful elite.

We support the efforts of the Chavez government since taking office to increase the people‚s exercise of the right to use the nation‚s airwaves not by silencing the rich minority who have a near-monopoly on the media, but legalizing a number of previously illegal private community radio stations (the sort that are still illegal in the United States).

The Green Party of the United States deplores the misreporting by the largely corporate-owned US media, infamous for its skewed reporting in the lead-up to the invasion of Iraq, as it again reveals its bias by failing to report the real issues involved in the non-renewal of RCTV‚s license.

US Foreign Policy toward Venezuela

The misreporting by US media on events in Venezuela and statements by the Bush Administration and Democratic Party leaders condemning Venezuela have nothing to do with valuing democracy and free speech. Instead, the defining drivers in US foreign policy are:


In 2001, after several elections had established a new constitution and a new National Assembly dedicated to eradicating poverty, Venezuelans passed a law asserting the authority to control its most vital resource, oil. Within five months, Venezuela‚s elite attempted a coup, supported by the Bush administration, using United States taxpayer money through the so-called National Endowment for Democracy.

Exxon, Mobil, BP and Chevron had come to Venezuela‚s oil fields in earlier times when the royalties were as low as 1% and there were no taxes. In May 2007, Chavez nationalized the last of the nation‚s private oil fields, asserting Venezuela‚s right to benefit from its own resources. In May, the country raised its stake in the oil profits from 30-49% to 60%. The oil companies have been permitted to stay and work the oil fields, but Venezuela will receive more of the profit. Although this will not immediately affect the US supply of oil, Venezuela has let it be known that it would like to sell its oil to more countries. The US is currently the largest consumer of Venezuelan oil, and Venezuela is the third largest exporter of oil to the United States.

Venezuela‚s increased oil income is to be channeled to benefit its citizens through social justice programs, such as healthcare, literacy and agricultural reform, to better the lives of the country‚s many poor.


Venezuela has made strides toward economic independence from the United States by repaying its International Monetary Fund and World Bank loans. Chavez is the initiator of the Banco del Sur, a regional lending institution created by and for the benefit of South American countries. This reduces South American dependence upon the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund, with their goal of economic dominance through privatization. We support these efforts, in addition to Venezuela‚s right to independent diplomacy and to negotiate trade agreements with other sovereign nations for mutual benefit.

Venezuela‚s Military Strength

US intelligence sources misreported the existence of a secret agreement between Iran and Venezuela that involved Iran sending nuclear weapons to Venezuela and Cuba. Venezuela‚s leaders have denied any such agreement, noting that their military agreements are „totally clear and public‰. They condemn nuclear proliferation and have called for worldwide nuclear disarmament. In the Caribbean, in May 2006, the US, Holland and Britain carried out the largest military games held there since the Cuban Missile Crisis. Since then, Venezuela has been purchasing conventional weapons to prepare for defense against possible US attack. Venezuela spends 1.6% of its GNP in military expenditures, a percentage similar to Venezuela‚s pre-Chavez expenditures. (In comparison, the US currently spends over 4.0% of its GDP on the military.) It is well behind Colombia and Chile, both US allies, in weapon purchases.

The Green Party of the United States notes that the avowed purpose of the US military is to defend the United States when threatened, not to attack for dominance in economic and/or oil markets. Greens support the same sovereign right to defend against attack for Venezuela and other nations. However, we deplore our nation‚s use of nuclear weapons and call for all nuclear nations to disarm.


We call upon our government to respect Venezuela‚s democratically elected government, its sovereign right to act on behalf of its own economic well-being, its right to hold public airwave licensees accountable to Venezuelan laws and the right of the Venezuelan government to act as it sees fit regarding the rights and well-being of all its citizens.

We recognize Venezuela as a leader in making a serious effort to meet the basic needs of its people, alleviating poverty, improving healthcare, increasing literacy, fostering democracy, encouraging cooperatives as an economic development tool, and promoting community radio stations and regional economic independence.


CONTACTS: Jill Bussiere, International Committee
  Dr. Jusinte McCabe, International Committee


In Search of Hugo Chávez by Michael Shifter, Foreign Affairs, May/June, 2006



Venezuela‚s New Constitution by Gregory Wilpert. August 27, 2003



The U.S. and Venezuela: Constitutional Worlds Apart by Stephen Lendman, August 24th 2007,



Venezuela‚s Constitutional Reform: Article-by-Article Summary by Gregory Wilpert, November 23, 2007



Venezuelans Know what they‚re doing by Venezuela knows what it's doing by Angel Rivero Santos, Los Angeles times, November 28, 2007



Fear of Chavez is Fear of Democracy by Greg Palast, December 3, 2007


Chavez Concedes Venezuela's Constitutional Reform Lost in "Photo Finish"



What is Venezuela‚s Constitutional Reform Really About? By Chris Carlson, November 23, 2007,



Venezuela: A Good Example of the Bad Left of Latin America by Michael A. Lebowitz, Monthly Review, July-August, 2007



Dual Power in the Venezuelan Revolution by George Ciccariello-Maher, Monthly Review, September 2007



Insurgencies by Antonio Negri, translated by M. Boscagli, Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 1999.


U.S. Papers Hail Venezuelan Coup as Pro-Democracy Move



Venezuela and the Media: Fact and Fiction By Robert McChesney and Mark Weisbrot



Washington Promotes 'Independent' Media in Venezuela by Michael Barker



Zero Hour for Venezuela's RCTV by George Ciccariello-Maher



This is Media War: The closure of Venezuela's popular, independent television channel RCTV signals a move towards authoritarianism for Hugo Chavez's regime

Rory Carroll in Venezuela



Venezuela's Co-op Boom by Michael Fox <>


New CEPR Paper Looks At Venezuela's Economy During the Chávez Years

(„The Venezuelan Economy During the Chavez Years‰ by Mark Weisbrot and Luis Sandoval, July, 2007) <>





US Greens to Attend the World Social Forum in Caracas



Bush's Vision of Global Freedom and Democracy a Cover for Impending Military




Greens Congratulate Venezuelans for Asserting Their Democracy in Referendum

on President Chavez



Greens Hail Restoration of Democracy and the Chavez Government in Venezuela



Greens, citing revealed memo, urge Bush to cancel CIA plans to interfere in Venezuelan referendum and destabilize the

Chavez government.





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