In today's article we are going to get a little bit deeper into the events in Venezuela that allowed for the current crisis to happen.
So far we have covered the before and after of the country, and the local misconception regarding the actual meaning of democracy, a factor that the government took advantage of throughout the years.
That was indeed a factor that helped this government develop a plan to subvert democracy little by little, under the eyes of not only Venezuela's population, but also under the eyes of the whole world. But how they did accomplish this?
The first strategy adopted by Chavez was to promote a strong division in the people as was mentioned in previous articles. He started with this since the very beginning of his campaign, as well as using certain words when talking about his opponents who were the ones who habitually had the power in the country. He called all of them the elite, and always tried to make the people develop hate towards them and their supporters. This dynamic became very popular, not only among his followers but everyone began to use it, the other candidates, the TV journalists, everyone talked about the elite overnight and how to defeat it in order to finally “fix” Venezuela.
Once Chavez became president he got rid of the strategy of calling others the elite. After all, the act of electing him had been the fatal blow to his enemies. With him in power, their supporters stopped thinking about an “elite” because it has been “defeated” finally.
So these people replaced the term with another one. Their enemy was no longer that horrible, intimidating and malicious elite. Their enemy now happened to be the opposition, and they started to say many things, mainly that they were "fascists" and "pro yankees", the opposition was then called “scrawny”(escuálido in spanish) to make people believe as if their were weak and insignificant. With that term they wanted to express the idea that the opposition is not a threat because they are not much people and they have no power whatsoever.
This trick was not created by them of course, it is exactly the same one used by Soviet manipulators when they used the term "Bolsheviks" which means they are more, and "Mensheviks" who were their opponents and were named like that simply because it means they are supposedly less, although in practice it was not true.
The Bolsheviks claimed the name after getting their way in a wrangle over the editorial board of the Party newspaper Iskra (‘the Spark’ – which was to ‘start a big blaze’). The Mensheviks unwisely accepted the appellation, though they were actually more often in the majority. | Source
This way, supporters of Chavez began to develop the idea that their opponents were weak, and if people wanted to be on the “winning” side, they should go and support Chavez and his revolution.
The method of destroying Western democracies by ironically using democratic means was first applied by Chávez and he used it to replicate the Venezuelan model in several South American countries.
In this method, unlike other violent dictatorships, democracy itself is used to destroy said democracy. It starts with a democratic government and if all the steps are applied, it ends with a totalitarian government that rather than looking totalitarian, it looks like the complete opposite of it, like a defender of democracy. The method has several steps as you can see below:
Changing the Constitution.
The possibility of always being a presidential candidate with no limits
Currency exchange control, that even to this day creates high economic distortions
Destroying freedom of expression.
Each step is taken in democratic ways even if they are just the opposite of what democracy should be and with the complicity of the people of course. That is why it is necessary to deceive them.
In each step the true intention of their actions is hidden and justified before the population as a necessary, inescapable measure, and that is done for the sake of everyone. Actually there is only one intention and that is to control the country, to prolong their power as much as possible.
This strategy works and is constantly being perfected. Besides being applied in Venezuela even to this day, it has also being applied in Bolivia for example.
Today we are going to cover why they wanted to change the Constitution, how they did it and its final result.
When I mentioned changing the constitution I meant literally to take the constitution, throw it away, put a new piece of paper on the table and start writing from scratch, and this allows for the possibility of changing the name of the country and changing the flag, dissolving the congress, they can change the definition of who is considered citizen, they could even divide the territory again. They can do whatever they can because the constitution is what defines what a country is and how it works.
All measures that limit the president's powers can be seen as a safety lock. Laws that prohibit or limit the manner in which the constitution can be modified can be seen as another safety lock. So what they do is analyze the constitution and look for its weak points, take advantage of it and modify it so the new constitution can serve their totalitarian wishes.
This government convinced the people that it was very important to vote for changing the constitution because, according to them, the constitution that we had wasn’t a proper representation of the people of today because it had not been supported by them, therefore, it was nothing more than an obsolete legacy of the corrupt governments from the past.
But they never told the people the real reason why they wanted to change the constitution. Their true goal was not to make democracy stronger, they wanted to change the constitution in order to extend the presidential term limits. Because with the old constitution no one could be reelected as a president and each period only lasted for five years. So under those rules, Chavez was going to have to leave in 2004, only lasting 5 years in power. To take complete control over the country, he had to start by changing the rules of the game.
Before changing the constitution, a president could not be reelected in a short period of time, he had to wait 10 years to be able to return and participate in another general election. After changing the constitution, they extended the period to six years and eliminated the prohibition regarding immediate reelection, besides a president could only stay in power for a maximum of five years in a democratic manner, after the change he could remain in power for twelve uninterrupted years, which is a big difference.
But this is not the only change they did to the constitution, because essentially with the new constitution it was granted total power to the president. There was a new mechanism called Enabling Law that allowed the president to dictate laws without the need to consult with the Parliament, just for "special cases". A “special case” could of course, be any type of excuse, and by implementing this Enabling Law the president could rule literally doing whatever he wants. Thus hundreds of laws were created as if Venezuela were Chavez’s property, without having to consult those laws with anyone.
They made the laws somewhat ambiguous, the idea was to be able to interpret the constitution as they wish without having many problems or disadvantages when it comes to justifying their actions. For example, they eliminate the clauses that specify how and when a process should start, so they can use it at any time.
Something similar happened with the traditional mechanisms of representation since they were completely replaced by popular votes, the reason is that the system of proportional representation is used to protect the citizenship of what is known as "the tyranny of the majorities". Every populist leader knows that his best weapon is the popular vote
Tyranny of the majority (or tyranny of the masses) refers to an inherent weakness of direct democracy and majority rule in which the majority of an electorate can and does place its own interests above, and at the expense of, those in the minority. This results in oppression of minority groups comparable to that of a tyrant or despot. | Source
They also created a new power called "electoral power", the point was simply to give more importance to the votes and control the entity that counts the votes and announce the winner, which was something they leveraged throughout the coming years. There is a famous quote attributed to Stalin that says "It's not the people who vote that count, it's the people who count the votes." | Source
There were many other modifications of course, most are designed to make people happy about making the changes. For example, a lot of people won’t opposed any changes if you add to the new constitution that nobody will have to pay for electric service, because they will find those gifts so irresistible that they do not care about anything else. It does not matter if in the end they put those gifts into practice or not. By changing the constitution they eventually were able to change the flag, the coat of arms, the name of the country and they even changed the official time zone.
Changing the constitution can be seen as a kind of Trojan horse, it might look like a gift but it can potentially be an ambush. If a government wants to change the constitution, it might because they know the current one doesn’t work for them, and it doesn’t work for them because it is protected, because it is truly democratic and have security mechanisms capable of stopping any totalitarian take over. Of course, there can be well intended governments that want to change the constitution for correct and honest reasons, but sadly that was not the case in Venezuela.
We will continue with the next step in the coming article.
Thanks for reading!
Authored by: @dedicatedguy
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