A territorial mess

The political map of Venezuela… for now.

Back to basics: according to the Constitution of 1999, Venezuela is now organized into 23 States (which are divided in 335 Municipalities), a Capital District and a small group of islands known as the Federal Dependencies. But that could completely change in the near future, thanks to a brand new Law of Territorial Organization to be discussed by the National Assembly.

The bill proposes new alternative figures to those defined by our Constitution, such as “Territorial Development Axes”, “Functional Regions” and “Urban-Rural Systems”, which can be created by a simple presidential decree. However, those proposed figures are vagely delimited in the bill, and its potential relation with the current structure is left unexplained.

Even if this bill is passed, either by the Assembly or by decree through the Enabling Law, the creation of new territorial figures is not a recent fad. Since the comandante eterno first proposed the comunes as part of the rejected constitutional reform of 2007, we have witnessed the surge of new entities that have undermined decentralization and largely increased bureaucracy.

The so-called “comunal power” was implemented despite being rejected in the 2007 referendum and now has its own legislation, its own ministry, its own institutions and soon it will have its very own TV channel. Even if its overall success is questionable at best, one thing is clear: they have clearly eroded the administrative duties and financial situations of States and Municipatilities.

The government has also created more specific figures like the Special Zones of Sustainable Development (ZEDES) or the Strategical Regions of Integral Development (REDI). The last one is just an extension of the military-oriented REDIs, created for “defensive” purposes.

But that’s not enough… They have also created defacto parallel governorships to counter the work of opposition governors. What CorpoLara, CorpoMiranda and CorpoAmazonas all have in common? Their three heads are the losing Chavista candidates of the last election. It’s obvious they never heard (or pretend they haven’t) the phrase “haste makes waste”.

In the end, this overbloated proliferation of territorial entities will do more harm than good. The exclusive nature behind their creation and the huge amount of bureaucracy that brings are perfect magnets for the corruption and inefficency the government wants to fight all along. Above all, it makes people’s problems harded to solve. Because looks like more and more normal issues in places like Bailadores or Carúpano end up with very long trips to Caracas.


  1. Capriles mentioned that CorpoMiranda got six times more credits from the central government than the state of Miranda. It would be good if more details about that were explained to the public in a picture…for people to visualize, digest better

  2. Venezuela must be a fascinating subject as a polisci student. How does the centralization of power in the figure of the president stand in contrast to the willful fragmentation of political power at the local level. Is the strategy behind this dilution in local power in fact divide-and-conquer?

    What seems absurd is that the communes are decreed – the absence of a natural driving force for their formation can be expected to lead to inefficiency. If they were needed, they would already exist. In any civil society, there is some utilitarian driving force that leads to formation of local committees, whether for commercial or urban planning. But this I suppose is the point, putatively to extend organizational know-how and power (through financing and information) to those who have never had the means to organize themselves. The hidden agenda is more likely to move all political organizations under a governmental umbrella, so as to better control them. And this naturally leads also to a waste of time and money (for all but enchufados of course who are happy to get free stuff).

    There are also hints of despair when any organization attempts to fix problems through a seemingly useless massive reorganization. Not very different from a large corporation in the throes of mismanagement. Change all the door signs and titles, but keep the course.

    • In ancient China people could tell that a dinasty was in trouble when it desperately fostered the disorderly proliferation of new laws and governent bodies because ordinary laws and institutions no longer ‘did their work’. Its a sign of a rulers impotence at facing problems that cannot be controlled.. It also follows a very primitive human urge towards ‘diplacement’, if you cant handle certain problems,then create a huge paralell artificial set of concerns to take attention away from those intractable problems you cant tackle . Saw this principle in operation at the board of a large company , when a tough problem was presented to it , some directors would start dwelling on some obscure technical minutae that obscured the problem rather than helped deal with it. They thus felt they had done something where effectively they had done nothing at all. It also helps create jobs for the unemployed members of a ruling clique , allowing them to feel important with grand sounding titles even if they lack any actual power.

  3. The communes are needed by the regime as an alternate basis of legitimacy. When the traditional states, regions, and municipalities have been bypassed, and their budgets cut off by decree, traditional democratic elections will become meaningless.

    “Communes” ( don’t call them soviets!) will then serve as a counter argument to the inevitable cries that democracy has been destroyed. Of course, under commune-ism, there will be no voting booths, proof of eligibility to vote, defined jurisdiction, elecion monitors, or electoral boundaries. All that bourgeois legal babble will become irrelevant, it will wither away, since the people will organize themselves organically and naturally, in each and every commune the central government sees fit to recognize and fund.

    Maduro will be the only voice heard in Venezuela, and it will all be so very democratic.

    • If the regime is anticipating that it will not even be able to manipulate and mimic an electoral result favourable to it , they will certainly contemplate moving on to a communal system of governance to maintain a fachade of democratic legitimacy for their rule . It wont convince most venezuelans who by now are accostummed to having real elections and the strife of contending political groups . It wont convince people from the rest of the world who know how to differentiate an authentic democracy from a faux made up one. The indirect system of election by intermediary bodies heavily controlled by the govt was what helped bring Medina down back in 1945 . People really hankered for true elections where every individual vote was counted .!!

    • Already in practice is “Commune Discrimination”.

      If you wish to register a Commune, you need to do so at, where else? but the Ministry for Communes.

      If they even suspect that your Commune harbors any anti-regime sympathies, your Commune does not get registered and therefore does not receive funding nor is it recognized.

      This even before the full scale application of the Commune Law has been applied.

      Imagine how things will be on DEC-9, regardless of the result………….

  4. Simplify for success (enabling law); Complicate for control (popular power communes and de facto parallel governorships, etc, etc). Centrifugal and centripetal forces at work.

  5. those institutions serve for little more than for propaganda circus and for more corruption. Time after time they try to convince us that they’ll fix the problem this time with yet another parallel institution, when people forget after a couple of months they just create another useless set of institutions without fixing anything. The same happens with the countless security plans

    • A US study made of Maos ( Politically very succesful ) leadership style , included among its key maxims , ‘engage in a lot of empty activity to make people “feel” that things are being done while in fact nothing is beign achieved’ , people are distracted by the noise and bluster and ultimately dont notice that nothing is ultimately done .!! Chavez took this maxim from Maos ‘leadership principles’ and applied it again and again with great success. Ordinary people dont have the attention span to keep tabs on what revolutionary initiatives are really achieved. activity substitutes for achievement.!!

  6. Thank you Gustavo for this article.

    I think that this is one of the most important topic in today’s politics, and it is very much understated or trivialized. The other day there was an article in this webpage talking about the lack of “campaigning mood” in the country and I think this might be one reasons behind it.

    The “Corpo-strategy” to deinstitutionalize States/Provinces has been clearly identified, and sadly for us it is working for them. What concerns me is that they still lack of something similar for municipalities. The “habilitante” might be behind this issue, but the how-questions are still unclear in economic/administrative/legal terms.

  7. In the end, this overbloated proliferation of territorial entities will do more harm than good.

    It will certainly do a great deal of harm, but will it do any good at all?

    The suggestion that this is analogous to the “soviets” of revolutionary Russia seems quite cogent. Such a “reorganization” would be good cover for the chavernment to destroy the state and local governments, some of which remain under oppo control.

    This action would be extralegal and unconstitutional, but if cloaked in “popular will”, would pass muster with the tranche of Latin American and US opinion that has any concern about Venezuela but only pays limited attention.

Leave a Reply