This is sort of a mailbag, review of many things that have been happening but I have not been able to comment on, in no particular order:
-To the surprise of many, Chávez invited historian Margarita Lopez to speak at the ratification of his mandate in the National Assembly. Lopez is not a member of any party as far as I know and is unusual for an event like this to have the speech be given by someone from outside. Deputy Tarek William Saab was supposed to give the speech but was surprisingly removed at the last minute. (he claims he learned about I from TV). The speech was weird in that the Deputies did not know whether to applaud her or not. She was critical of the opposition and intellectuals, but was also critical of the Government. She asked for long termed thinking, conciliation and dialogue on the part of the Government and said the Government had to lead this process. She called for respect of human rights, suggesting they were not being respected. She closed by calling for avoiding totalitarian and despotic temptations and told Chávez he had to find the path to a dialogue. The Deputies of the National assembly were mostly lukewarm towards Ms. Lopez’ speech, only when Chávez applauded her at the end strongly did they follow their leader. Definitively courageous of Ms. López to be so critical of the Government in such a scenario. -Nicolas Maduro proposed extending Chavez term by three years. Well, clearly if Chávez wants to do it, the MVR controlled Assembly will do it for him, but responding to Maduro immediately is the type of thing the opposition has to avoid. Curiously, even some members of Chavez’ party also reacted to Maduro’s proposal which may have been made simply to gain points with the big boss.
-Chávez has called for his supporters not to step out of the party line. He said he would not accept multiple candidacies and told his supporters to work to that end. Obviously, he ahs a right to do this, the problem is what will be the mechanism used to choose the candidates. Some supporters will be left behind in the process. Curiously, for a Government that claims not to believe in polls, Diosdado Cabello said all candidates would be selected strictly on the basis of who is leading the polls.
-New Ministries. What else is new? When Chávez first got to power the first thing he did was to reduce the number of Ministries. Since then he has been expanding them. A Minister for Feeding sounds like formalizing Mercal, which distributes food. But Mercal’s basic activity is importing food for distribution under a very obscure cost structure. (The Government pays no import duty, makes no profit, but Mercal’s prices are roughly 10% below market prices, so somebody is making a nice piece of change) The Minister of Housing makes more sense. There are three or four institutions (Fondur, Inavi, Fundabarrios) with overlapping responsibilities for housing and organizing in a single entity makes a lot of sense.
-Land Bill, Land expropriation and the like. To me this is almost a non-issue, I will try to write a long post on this, but I think Chávez is talking about this to pressure the Land Institute into doing something and because the issue is popular with his constituency.