Chavez makes a power grab

Juan Cristobal says: – That headline is ridiculous, isn’t it?

Chavez is perhaps the most powerful man in the history of our nation, more powerful than Simon Bolivar in his prime and certainly more powerful than Juan Vicente Gomez. He controls the courts. He controls the considerable purse strings. He controls everything from who you hire to who you can fire, from what you pay for a dollar to what you pay for gas.

And yet, there is one thing he doesn’t control: Caracas city hall.

Well, not any more. In an egregiously un-democratic move even for chavistas, Venezuela’s National Assembly approved a new law that basically dismembers the Metropolitan Mayor’s office they created and voters approved when the new Constitution passed in 1999. As of now, the Metropolitan Mayor’s Office will mostly be a ceremonial post, a “coordinator” between the mayors of Caracas’ five municipalities and with only a fraction of its resources.

Not that there’s much to coordinate anyway – four of the five municipalities are run by the opposition, but the sole chavista mayor refuses to attend “coordinating” meetings and is unwilling to deal with any of his colleagues.

In its place, the National Assembly created legislation for a “Capital District,” whose boundaries are exactly the same as those of the “Libertador” municipality that chavista Jorge Rodriguez presides over. In essence, the Capital District will have a Chavez-appointed “governor” and a chavista mayor, both working in the same jurisdiction.

(This is nothing new for chavistas – Vargas state “functions” in the exact same way: one mayor, one governor, same area)

Now, we’ve known for years this “Metropolitan Mayor” figure made little sense, that Caracas was a monstrosity, a dysfunctional city where local governments barely functioned. Even opposition people far more knowledgeable than me acknowledge the status quo was problematic, to say the least.

But this new law has nothing to do with that. Instead of dealing with these issues, it only exacerbates them by effectively killing the lone supra-municipal authority there was. Instead of sitting down with all parties (including the governors of Miranda and Vargas) and devising a workable proposal and timetable, it decides to reverse the outcome of an election.

In the past few weeks, the government has stepped up the persecution of opposition figureheads. It has gone to great lengths to ignore the will of the people by stripping many of the local governments they elected in November of their funding and their attributions. It has done so with no regard for the law and with nobody – least of all Venezuela’s compliant courts – being able to stop it.

The government ignores the will of the people and submits the courts to its will. Remind me again … why doesn’t that qualify as a dictatorship?

Because, to me, we’ve crossed that threshold.