One last shout...

…before heading to the train station.

Chavistas find it hard to understand the opposition’s accusations of authoritarianism as anything other than a slur. But the recent appointment of the Comando Maisanta should serve to illustrate a few of our concerns. As we saw, the President appointed two dozen assembly members, ministers, oil officials and state governors, among others, to its campaign effort. The Finance Minister will also be in charge of campaign finances, and the energy minister will be expected to contribute as well.

Now, the transit from democracy to authoritarianism starts with the corruption of basic conceptual differentiations that are at the center of the Republican system of government. The state, in any normal conception of democratic life, is different from the government, which in turn is different from the governing party, which is different again from the president. In Chavismo all these differentiations are blurred to the point of dissappearance. A government that campaigned on ending cronyism in the distribution of oil revenues finds its Energy Minister on the board of an electoral campaign! The conflict of interest is never discussed, or even explicitly acknowledged. The kidnapping of national resources for the express electoral advantage of one side and against all the others is something the country hadn’t seen since 1957.

When state=government=governing party=president, the basic conceptual architecture of democracy breaks down. This may be defended on revolutionary grounds, but not on democratic grounds. So I find it especially galling that the Venezuelan government is now prosecuting Sumate’s leaders on the grounds of “perverting the Republican system of government,” under the creepily authoritarian article 132 of Venezuela’s 70 year old penal code.