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.