So, as part of the Dialogue effort — no, seriously, that’s still going on, didn’t you know? — the Support Team led by former Spanish Prime Minister José Luis Rodríguez Zapatero has put a detailed proposal on the table. It calls for a kind of grand bargain between the government and the opposition to ride out the rest of Venezuela’s constitutional crisis.
Here —for the first time, we think— is the full text:
It’s a curious document — a kind of alternate constitution, really, setting out a whole new institutional mechanism to work through our political conflict.
The Plenaria Conjunta is a government of National Unity by another name, in other words.
It starts by urging mutual recognition between the Executive and the Legislative branch, then calls for the adoption of an “Implementation Mechanism” in the hands of a “Joint Plenary” (Plenaria Conjunta) made up of four representatives of the government and four representatives of MUD, together with the Vatican and the three former presidents: Zapatero, Leonel Fernández of the Dominican Republic and Martín Torrijos of Panama.
Much of the rest of the document deals with this Plenaria Conjunta, which is tasked with minor things like “solving the problem with shortages,” “guaranteeing balance between the branches of government,” “reconciling Venezuelan society”, “strengthening elections institutions”, “fighting violence and crime.” Casi nada.
The Plenaria Conjunta is a Government of National Unity by another name.
If you think Zapatero is off in Cloud-Cuckoo Land here, you’re going to love the fourth point. It establishes that nobody on the Plenaria Conjunta is to act for party political advantage, everyone has to respect everyone else, and a rainbow-farting unicorn is to chair all meetings.
Point Five then goes through the areas the Plenaria Conjunta is enabled to make decisions on (tl;dr: everything) before we get to the truly crazy-ass bit: the gloriously deranged Point Seven, Mecanismo de Garantías.
Look, I’m not rally partial to histrionic, vestment-rending appeals to National Sovereignty — they’re usually rhetorical fluff put forward by ideological scoundrels out to swindle you.
This, you’ll agree is the crux of the matter: we’ve had tons of agreements with the government before, and they always stiff us when the time comes to implement. So, Señor Rodríguez Zapatero, what’s the plan for when they do that, huh?
The brilliant solution: binding arbitration…by the “acompañantes”: a panel made up of a bunch of foreigners, and very likely to be chaired by a Spaniard!
Look, I’m not rally partial to histrionic, vestment-rending appeals to National Sovereignty — they’re usually rhetorical fluff put forward by ideological scoundrels out to swindle you. But let’s be clear: this proposal reverses the Declaration of Independence of 1811.
Zapatero’s cunning plan is for us to overcome our political differences by giving the final word to a Madrid politician (a.k.a., him.) Which, granted, would be a hilarious way for a self-style Bolivarian revolution to end. Sadly, it’s unthinkable a government like ours would agree a document like this in good faith, which makes the whole proposal a bit of a joke, really.
Even if the government did accept it —which it won’t— the opposition shouldn’t. It’d be humiliating. And, again, the language of national humiliation is so puteado, it’s easy to discount it, but make no mistake: this document is genuinely humiliating.
But even if both the government and the opposition accepted it (chances of that = winter olympics in hell territory) it wouldn’t work. Because Captain General Zapatero has no legions in Venezuela. He has no mechanism to enforce any decision the arbitration panel makes.
We have a perfectly serviceable constitution. We just need to implement it.
So the way this would shake out is entirely evident: we’d waste six months going through the baroque Plenaria Conjunta process the document sets out, we’d come to a decision, the government wouldn’t implement it, we’d go through the humiliating Mecanismo de Garantías, the Captain General would rule against the government…and they’d just ignore him.
Likely, they’d get Supreme Tribunal (TSJ) to rubber stamp a decision calling the arbitral panel unconstitutional, which it very obviously is. Which is a handy reminder that TSJ remains the joker in the deck — able to overrule everything: the Assembly, the Mecanismo de Garantías, the constitution, grammar, and common sense. Until you’ve dealt with the fact the Tribunal’s become an evident joke, you’re busy looking for new and creative ways to sweep the problem under the rug rather than solving it.
We don’t need a whole new set of of para-constitutional/neo-colonial mechanisms layered on top of the constitution. We have a perfectly serviceable constitution. We just need to implement it. There are no shortcuts to that, sadly.
And for that to happen, the dictatorship has to be overthrown first.Caracas Chronicles is 100% reader-supported. Support independent Venezuelan journalism by making a donation.