Should Chavismo Continue to Exist as a Political Force when Venezuela Restores Democracy?

Can a party, whose primary aspiration is precisely to abolish the democratic system, participate in the reconstruction of Venezuela? Should the PSUV be outlawed? Several intellectuals and activists answer the question

Chavismo is a degraded and exhausted political force. It does not represent the Venezuelan population (Walter Vargas)

Can a party, whose primary aspiration is precisely to abolish the democratic system, participate in and develop the system? Should the PSUV be outlawed? Several intellectuals and activists answer the question

Many have proposed, not merely hinted, that once democracy is restored in Venezuela, Chavismo should participate in the elections. The suggested candidates include Nicolas Maduro and Hector Rodriguez, the illegitimate governor of the state of Miranda.

These bold proposals ignore some crucial details. First, the International Court of Justice is investigating Maduro for crimes against humanity. Additionally, the legitimate Supreme Court of Venezuela in exile is investigating him for accusations of corruption and embezzlement. They also ignore that Maduro would be the head of a criminal narco-trafficking organization responsible for a long list of crimes.

Chavismo is now seen as a legitimate political force constituted in the United Socialist Party of Venezuela (PSUV). However, the Revolutionary Bolivarian Movement – 200, which later became the Fifth Republic Movement was an organization that first attempted a coup. They are a criminal force responsible for the deterioration of the Venezuelan institutions.

The United Socialist Party of Venezuela is the platform that represents Chavismo today. It comprises all the armed paramilitary groups in a criminal order with the characteristics of Cosa Nostra. Its representatives and political elites share the responsibility for the deprivation of Venezuela along with Nicolas Maduro.

For example, Diosdado Cabello, the vice-president of the United Socialist Party of Venezuela, is the de facto leader of the so-called Cartel de Los Soles, the narco-trafficking group under the control of members of the Venezuelan Armed Forces.

Today, Chavismo is a degraded and exhausted political force. It does not represent a significant portion of the population. Chavismo developed under the Bolivarian ethic, one that thrives in resentment, revenge, and plundering. A movement conceived by Hugo Chavez is not compatible with liberal dynamics of a democratic republic.

It could indeed be undemocratic to exclude a political force that represents some people, albeit an inconsiderable percentage. However, is democracy necessarily disassociated from the ethics and values that are intrinsic to the democratic process itself? In other words, can a party whose principal aspiration is precisely to abolish the democratic system participate and unravel freely in the very order.

Venezuela could emulate the practice of some European and South East Asian (example, Indonesia) countries. They have banned political parties that are inherently undemocratic. Currently, Moldova, Ukraine, Estonia, Lithuania, Czech Republic, Poland, and other nations have banned the Communist Party and its symbols. Many of these countries extend their ban to nazism and any totalitarian movement that seeks to restrict human freedoms and rights.

Germany endured the cruelest totalitarian imposition the world has ever conceived. Later, they healed their scars through a process of disinfection that went through the Nuremberg Trials. Subsequently, Germany banned the Socialist Party of Reich in 1952 and the German Communist Party in 1956.

Chavism has not got the opportunity to spread territorially as a genocidal movement like Nazism or Stalinism. However, the deranged foundational principles of these ideologies are very similar. Chavismo is more homegrown and local as a model as well as in terms of the results of its imposition.

However, this string of words is of little importance here. Some are already talking about the depressive scenario of an election, sidestepping the other two obstacles in the almost sacrosanct route that Juan Guaido offered to us. They rave about the eventual participation of democratic Chavismo, a strange oxymoron that some insist does exist.

What is important is the opinion of those whose voices transcend. Here are the responses of some distinguished individuals offering their opinion to the PanAm Post about the question posed by the title of this article.

Antonio Ledezma, Venezuelan opposition leader: “Chavismo can channel its sentiment with a political party that behaves like one. It cannot be a haven for drug traffickers, terrorists, and criminals against humanity. We aspire to re-establish democracy and, thereby, to guarantee credible institutions that function well per the law. We demand the guarantee of human, political, economic, and social rights. This implies respect for political and ideological thought, religious creed, free enterprise, private property, and so on. The PSUV must regenerate itself. It must be a real party and not a peasant militia. They should clearly understand that the candidates they nominate cannot have engagements with national and international justice systems. Principles and justice are not negotiable.”

Alejandro Armas, journalist: “As we know, some states ban specific political organizations instead of prohibiting political ideologies. They argue that these organizations use state machinery to commit atrocious crimes. The most famous case is that of Germany. There, the Nazi party was declared unconstitutional, and the German Penal Code prohibits public display of symbols of unconstitutional organizations. However, this presents a tactical problem. In Germany, there is at least one neo-Nazi party. The National  Democratic Party of Germany retains a large part of the Nazi ideology but abstains from using Nazi symbols to comply with the law. For example, instead of using images with the face of Hitler, they use pictures of Hess, the lieutenant of Hitler.

Imagine that a democratic Venezuela bans the PSUV and its symbols. Someone can then create a new Chavista party. They will use a picture of any Chavista leader instead of the image of Chavez’s eyes.

Some will say that the solution is to ban chavismo as an ideology. However, that too is problematic as someone would have to enforce this ban. There would be an authority who would determine what Chavismo is. However, defining ideologies is not basic arithmetic like adding two and two. What is socialism? What is liberalism? Everyone has their opinions on these, but there is no consensus. Therefore, I believe that the authority responsible for deciding what Chavismo is would have too much power. It can exert this power arbitrarily.

Finally, this can open doors or the abuse of political freedoms. Besides, I think that prohibiting political parties or ideologies can be counterproductive as it creates an aura of romanticism that these ideas do not deserve. It is what happened with the communist parties earlier when they were banned in Latin America.

For all these reasons, despite my intense dislike of Chavismo, I think that banning it is pointless.”

Claudia Sandoval, Venezuelan ambassador in Honduras: “I don’t think so. Developed nations have banned fascism and communism as real political options. In the same way that I cannot imagine democratic nazism (fascism), I do not see a democratic chavismo (communism of the 21st century). Inhuman ideologies with proven criminality (crimes against humanity and severe violations of human rights) should be outlawed as in Western countries. Democracy cannot be naive or foolish enough to commit suicide.”

Daniel Lara Farias, Venezuelan journalist. “If chavismo continues to exist as a political force, it will be a sign that democracy has not recovered.”

Daniel Varnagy, professor at Simón Bolívar University and a Ph.D. in Political Science: “In the last two decades that Chavismo has held power in Venezuela, we have seen it as a combination of left-wing ideas through a generalized violent praxis. The ideology that its founder introduced by carrying out a coup d’etat could be considered as a philosophy that encourages the destruction of everything that society requires for its development.

It probably won’t be in the democratic spirit to prevent the participation of a left-wing party in a democratic, representative, and pluralistic society. However, so-called chavismo cannot and should not be part of the spectrum of alternatives that Venezuelan society has in its future.”

Diego Arria, diplomat, writer and former president of the United Nations Security Council: “When we reclaim freedom, rights, and democracy in Venezuela, we cannot exonerate organizations that have precisely destroyed democracy, freedom, economy, and values in a country, as is the case of the regime’s party, the PSUV. Chavismo has been used extensively and intensely as a mechanism for the destruction of the country. It will be absurd to reclaim freedom and then legitimize the very entity that has caused the damage of the country and recognize it as an agent who can participate in the electoral process. I believe that this issue warrants inspection. Of course, the followers: the Chavistas and Maduristas will organize themselves one way or another. But that will be under another organization which is not the same one that buried the freedom of our country.”

Erik Del Bufalo, university professor and philosopher: “The problem is not Chavismo. Because Chavismo does not mean anything. What cannot continue is the criminal Chavista state established in 1999. After dismantling this state, if there remains a movement that claims to be that of Chavez, and the PSUV has been purged clean, it can be allowed to participate. As I said earlier, the problem is not Chavismo. I repeat, it is the Chavista criminal state that was established based on the 1999 constitution.”

Hector Schamis, professor of Latin American studies, Georgetown University: “The point isn’t if it should. The question is whether there will continue to be Chavistas once democracy is restored. If there are, what do you do? Do you persecute them? There are Francoists in Spain. There is a certain neofascism in Italy. It is more complicated than organizing a political party. Spain, Italy, Hungary, Poland, the former Yugoslavia, France, etc. have authoritarian parties and some totalitarians.”

Lorent Salah, human rights activist: “It is much cheaper that Chavistas remain as a political force with a participation, perhaps within Congress, than that after years and years of terrorism, attacks, and confrontation, in the end, to have to negotiate with them and give them space after committing a lot of crimes, as has happened in all countries. Moreover, it’s better for us to have a small representation than it is for them. It’s better for them not to be there.”

J. J. Rendon, political strategist: “There has to be a process of reconstruction of the republic, whereby we recover the rule of law. However, this process should not take us from one totalitarian system to another. I have been demanding respect for the rights and values of Venezuelans for twenty years, and one cannot hope to continue with arbitrariness once democracy is restored. I don’t want victims, and I don’t want to pay attention to the conversation around chavismo.

Why aren’t they allowed to participate? First, it is essential to achieve the acceptable conditions to start elections and the democratic process. Those who believe that we can go ahead with elections without instilling the sufficient conditions probably want to delay the democratic process itself. I want to see chavismo defend itself. When Maduro is sentenced for life, he should have the best lawyer. He deserves to be in prison forever. I want chavismo to defend their ideas in a way they have never had to.”

Jose Vicente Haro, lawyer, and consultant: “The greatest threat to the transition, the transitional government, and later, an elected government is that chavismo will become what today is Argentine Peronism or Nicaraguan Sandinismo. These are political ideologies that have given rise to parties that have attacked the democratic system, freedom, and human rights.

Let us ban chavismo as a political ideology through legal and constitutional means. It is necessary to guarantee the survival of democracy once we restore it, to secure liberty as a fundamental value of democracy, and to ensure human rights.

Political parties whose ideologies are chavismo or any form of 21st-century socialism will try to sustain themselves or remodel themselves in Venezuela.  The consequence will be the establishment of a constitutional and legal regime similar to that established in Germany with the Nazi and Communist parties.

Democracy has the right to provide guarantees for the very survival of the democratic system. Democracy has the right to defend itself, even by establishing mechanisms, perhaps extraordinary ones, to outlaw political forces with clearly anti-democratic tendencies such as chavismo. These considerations may be considered controversial, intolerant, offensive, or opposed to the freedom of the political system. However, they are legitimate constitutional measures and seek precisely to safeguard the democratic system.”

Nehomar Hernandez, journalist: “As we have seen in many great transitions in the world, the political clique that is going out of power, unfortunately, remains attached to the political system, even though it is a political ideology that has caused much harm. I believe that Chavismo will degenerate into various factions. And given the history of transitions, one camp of chavismo will remain in positions of state leadership. They will gain political favors or access data from Congress. This is not desirable, but it will happen.

Although everyone deserves representation, chavismo has never been a democratic force. To be a democratic force, Chavism will have to mutate into something else. Right now, I don’t see it holding a favorable position in politics. These factions haven’t proven that they can succeed in the ambit of democratic competition. They don’t know this space. They have gone from orchestrating a coup d’etat to seizing total power. It will be difficult for the PSUV to serve as an opposition party.”

Pedro Pedrosa, political consultant, and strategist: “Chavismo cannot continue to exist. Should Hitler participate in elections with Konrad Adenauer after the fall of the Third Reich?”

Pedro Urruchurtu, politician and former vice-president of the International Federation of Young Liberals: “First, one has to understand the criminal and authoritarian dimension of the chavismo mafia. It does not start from Maduro but goes back to the conception of the system. It is also vital to note chavismo’s links with socialist and communist ideology.

There must be justice and clarity about what chavismo meant and represented. The culprits must serve their sentences to compensate for the damage the nation has incurred. If, after achieving justice, there are political groups that idealize the ways of chavismo and the tenets of socialism, and they understand and willingly want to participate in a democratic system of justice and unambiguous rules, their participation can be considered. But first, there has to be justice.”

Rafael Arriaz Lucca, historian, writer, and university professor: “Naturally, chavismo could participate once democracy is restored. It is a political force.”

Ricardo Hausmann, chief governor of Venezuela at the Inter-American Development Bank: “I don’t think it would be desirable to outlaw it. Its death must be a political result, not a judicial one.”

Rocío Guijarro, philosopher: “In a liberal democracy, the parties that exist must be focused on strengthening the rule of law and the freedom of citizens. Those parties that attempt against this should be prohibited since their purpose is to control and end individual freedom.”

Thomas Dangel, human rights activist: “When we restore democracy in Venezuela, we have to declare the PSUV illegal. Chavismo was an ideology established in Venezuela around the persona of Hugo Chávez Frías, and today, the PSUV is an organization that used the civil-military union to corrupt and destroyed institutions and commit the most atrocious criminal acts and human rights violations that we have seen so far in the modern history of Venezuela. Therefore, with the return of democracy, the PSUV should be an illegal party and designated as a criminal organization.”

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