Quitting before you start

Two Chavista assembly-members elect have already said they won't take on the seats they were elected for less than a week ago, preferring their old mayor's jobs. More may follow.

Omar Prieto, Assembly Refusenik

The National Assembly has been a trench of the revolution for many years now. The go to place to dig out new government officials to fill holes in a hole-riven bureaucracy: only in 2015 we saw deputies leave their seats to take on a ministry, the superintendence of fair prices, or even the police reform commission.

But things have changed. So much so, in fact, that on January 5th when the new majority takes its 112 seats, some newly elected revolutionary deputies will not be taking theirs. That’s right, they’re quitting before ever setting a foot inside the Palacio Federal Legislativo.

Omar Prieto — current mayor of San Francisco in Zulia — and Rafael Calles —current mayor of Guanare in Portuguesa —  have both resigned/declined to their respective brand new curules.

But why?

Supposedly the heads of the party asked them to return to their municipalities.

Prieto even said: “I’ve taken the decision, per the request of the people, considering what happened during the elections, not to take my seat in the National Assembly…por ahora. Right now it is more important that I stay in San Francisco, as mayor, reorganizing, moving forward, and then, maybe, there will come a time when I’ll have to take my post at the National Assembly.”

Not sure how that “por ahora” and maybe, eventually “take my post” would work.

Calles was a little more honest and said that he preferred to stay in front of the municipal government and that his candidacy was imposed by the party.

This may be the result of one of two connected things:

1. The office of the mayor might be more attractive than a National Assembly curul: a mayor has more personal political power than an assembly-member. They have a budget, staff, local clout. They run things, which a rump <⅓  minority at the National Assembly certainly doesn’t.

2. The revolutionary ranks are shrinking and the few seemingly loyal soldiers have to be distributed among many revolutionary trenches. As far as trenches go, the AN is not a very appealing one. 

Prieto and Calles were the only two mayors that ran for the National Assembly, but a whopping seven ministers ran beside them and won (6 as main members and 1 as an alternate): Ricardo Molina (Habitat and Housing Minister), Haiman El Troudi (Minister for Overland Transportation), Carmen Meléndez (Minister for the Preisdent’s Office), Héctor Rodríguez (Education Minister), Asdrúbal Chávez, (who was relieved of his post as Oil Minister just as his candidacy was announced), Aloha Núñez, (Minister for Indigenous Peoples) y Elías Jaua (Minister for Communes and Social Movements)

Aloha Nuñez, the Minister of Indigenous People and Pietro’s alternate, won’t probably leave her seat, but some —or all— of the others might have to in the near future: let’s not forget that Maduro is looking to reinvent his cabinet.

Don’t be surprised if you see some legislative elections losers climbing back to the scorched branches of the executive. Their ranks are shrinking and the trenches are collapsing by way of a landslide, a tendencia irreversible.  

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