Formalities in formaldehyde

One of the more salient points of these surreal times we are living through is that a Revolution spawned out of a formal oath in front of a tree … now considers oath-taking a mere “formality.”

Part of the chavista argument for wiping the floor with the Constitutional mandate for swearing in the President on January 10th is that Chávez is both President and President-elect. Hence, according to them, the Presidential period is simply ongoing.

But we’ve been in this situation before … with the exact same President.

In 2006, Hugo Chávez was re-elected in a landslide. In early 2007, he announced his Cabinet for the new Presidential term. Among other changes, Jorge Rodríguez replaced José Vicente Rangel as Vice-President because Rangel’s term ended. The Cabinet was sworn in (a mere formality!) on January 8th, a couple of days before the President. Significantly, even the Ministers that stayed in their posts were sworn in that day, clearly signifying that their term was expiring and a new one was beginning, even though they had the same job.

According to the Maduro doctrine, Presidential Inaugurations are quaint little social conventions that bear no judicial weight whatsoever, as significant as shaking hands or bending the tip of your hat when you greet someone – it’s nice when we do it, but doesn’t make much of a difference in the overall scheme of things.

Chàvez’s 2007 behavior directly contradicts that. What Maduro regards as a formality, Chávez himself regards as grand theater, something he has always considered a big deal.

When Chávez showed up at the National Assembly dressed to the nines to take the oath on January 10th 2007, he vowed “Fatherland, Socialism or Death! I swear it!” This is a man used to making historic stream-of-consciousness affairs out of routine addresses to the National Assembly.

Who can forget his swearing over a “moribund Constitution” in 1999? What about his nine-hour long address to the National Assembly a year ago?

Speeches and oaths are occasions for grand theater in chavista lore, so the suggestion that these are mere “formalities” is downright … counter-revolutionary.

One has to wonder what Chávez himself would think of the Maduro doctrine.