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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  1. Prieto (you wrote it as Pietro twice, lol) and Calles were both popular mayors used by the PSUV as catapults to gather more votes in their states and diminish a potential defeat at the hands of the MUD. Needless to say, that strategy failed as the MUD got their best performances ever in those states. And considering there’s little they can do as part of a minority in the National Assembly, staying as mayors where they can actually do things and aspire for greater positions makes much more sense. Prieto in particular seems to have his eyes on the Zulia governorship, so watch out.

  2. So, does a PSUV supple te take over automatically, or does the AN have to declare the seat vacant first? Can a by-election ever be called?

    I ask this because I think the 2/3 majority for the MUD could be vulnerable to a few big bribes to the right individuals. It would be nice to have an offsetting mechanism.

  3. “This may be the result of one of two connected things:”

    It’s all about Money and power. Corruption. Let’s call a spade a spade. These angelitos chavistas simply know that they can get rich faster as Mayors than in the AN. Easier, juicier.

  4. This Venezuelan practice of the elected representative to abandon the post to which they have been elected and let a substitute deputy do the job (without any bother or complaint by the voters) underscores the artificiality of the whole parlaimentary representative system in Venezuela where people vote primarily for a political group or party not for the person who is to represent them so that when that person is susbstituted it doenst matter one bit. !!

    The whole concept of choosing a particular person as your representative is what justifies the existence of an institution of elected representatives , when the choice ceases to be personal to become ‘partisan’ then the concept loses its justification and what you have is a party system where people dont care who gets chosen to represent them provided he carries the badge of a particular political allegiance . This is not a healthy practice and should be discouraged. !!

    • Sorry, Bill, but that’s basically exactly how we Canadians (and Brits, Ausies and a bunch of Commonwealth countries) elect our parliament and by extension our leader. The vast majority of us vote for a particular party – not for the individual running for the seat. The big difference – of course – is if they step down for whatever reason, there is a by-election to fill the seat.

      • If so , then the person of the candidate is irrelevant as the vote is for a political partiality and not for any particular person , we then ought to recognize that and have elections where each party through our votes is delegated the right to choose who is to represent us in parlaiment and not go thru the charade that the accomplishments and attainments of the candidate matter, he is just the floozy of the party that chooses him to the post . This means its not personal character , capacity or conviction that decides a political race but the political brand of the party we ve chosen to follow and support with our votes. !! This reveals the true nature of modern democracy as a depersonalized system where our identitification with political parties is what counts and not much else.!! This is very dissapointing …..!!

        • I agree. I tend to agree with Perez Jimenez on one thing: parties are evil.

          It should be competence and eloquence that decides leadership, not ideology. Enough with the damn communism!


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