Signs like the one below have been seen around Zulia state, mostly Maracaibo, for quite at least six weeks:
(It says: YES to the autonomous status, NO to socialism and enough of leftwings. It’s own course for Zulia)
I had heard about the signs, but it was not until yesterday in El Nacional that I saw them and read the story about the group that wants to hold a referendum on the region’s autonomy. The group is not secessionist; it wants to hold a referendum to create an autonomous region or state in the same sense that some Spanish provinces are autonomous. They want to distribute the founding document and hold a referendum late this yearb. Essentially, they consider that Zulia State has contributed and inordinate amount of the resources of the Nation (Lake Maracaibo is in Zulia State) but een commensurate witthe treatment given to the region by the Central Government. According to a politician from Zulia, the State contributes 31% to GDP, but receives only 2% of the budget. I have not looked into this, but the first number looks high and the second one seems low, but it is true that Zulia has given more than it has received and continues to do so. But this is not a new claim. For decades, the state has felt that it has not received its fair share of the Government’s resources, which coupled with the strong regional identity of the inhabitants of that state has always led for calls for “La Republica Independiente del Zulia”.
Now, my personal opinion is that I would be against the separation of Zulia from Venezuela and I have not seen the proposed autonomy bylaws to see if it makes sense or not, or if I would be for it or against it. But I am amazed by the Government’s reaction from Chavez on down. This is, after all a democracy, but they all seemed to have forgotten about it, because they live in their own autocracy:
-First, there was Chavez himself, not only threatening that no state would separate from the Nation, but saying that the US was behind this conspiracy (number 9,878 and counting) and Governor Manuel Rosales was behind it, despite the fact that the group Rumbo Propio para El Zulia clearly says they have nothing to do with Rosales and in fact, they are all former members of COPEI, which is and was far from where Rosales stands politically.
-Then, there was the Chavista Deputy from Zulia State, Head of the Finance Committee of the National Assembly in today’s El Nacional threatening that the Government and the Armed Forces would not allow for any referendum to decide the autonomy of the region to take place.
-This was followed by MVR Deputy William Lara in his customary Monday press conference, blaming the US Ambassador for the proposal and calling for an investigation of this “group” threatening sovereignty. But he was late to the party as the Prosecutor General had already given a press conference saying that his office had already opened an investigation into this “group” to determine if they had committed crimes against the Nation and its “territorial integrity”.
This whole thing simply is one more amazing case which reveals the autocratic and perverse Chavista logic, which makes anything that they do not agree with, simly illegal, even if it was the Chavistas themselves which introduced the referendum into the Venezuelan Constitution. Thus, it would appear to be perfectly valid and legal, even if I disagree with it, for any group calling for the region and the country to vote on a referendum on this question. It represents no threat to the Nation, it should not be illegally blocked or stopped by anyone except in the ballot boxes and in no way violates any known law.
In fact, it seems as if the only integrity that is being violated is that of the Constitution itself, which is sidestepped, trampled and violated at each step by this autocratic Government and, in this particular case, it is simply being ignored by the same group that wrote it. (One of the leaders of Rumbo Propio says the CNE refuses to accept papers for a referendum on the issue, I have no idea whether this is true or not)
In the end, it actually makes you wonder: What are they really afraid of? Why not let the issue be decided by the people? Whatever happened to Chavez’ claim that he did not believe in a representative democracy but in a participatory democracy where the people directly made all of the decisions? I suspect that this group may have been quite clever by coupling the autonomy issue with a vote on Century 21 Socialism, maybe Chavez will need to explain what the hell that stands for. And taht woudl be scary, sinec nobody seems to knwo what it stands for.
Let Rumbo Propio gather the signatures required to put the question to the voters. If they manage to get them, then let’s hold a referendum and follow its results. After all, this Bolivarian Democracy was based on a referendum which appeared nowhere in the laws of the Nation or its Constitution, but the Supreme Court in its “wisdom”and backed then by Chavismo, ruled that power ultimately resides in the people and that it was them that could decide on the Constituent Assembly.
It is no different now. Neither the Army, nor the National Assembly, nor the President should or can stand in the way of the possibility of legally holding such a referendum. Their reaction today simply shows their desire to perpetuate in power and how much they despise the very own democratic rules they created. Power does indeed reside ultimately on the people. That is what democracies are about, but these guys are not democrats, they just want the power.