CARACAS, Saturday November 17, 2012 | Update
INTERVIEW | Gerardo Blyde, Mayor of Baruta Municipality

"Communes will ultimate fail, but they will lead to control over citizens"

"Under the façade of People's Power, there is a pressing intention to trample over decentralization" "A central goal of that project is to instill communism"

The Mayor of Baruta believes that the best way to face off against compulsory communes is to vote for governors who back decentralization (Photo: Enio Perdomo)
Saturday November 17, 2012  12:00 AM
When Gerardo Blyde launched his candidacy for the Mayor's Office of Baruta Municipality, his intentions drew reservations. A lawyer specializing in Constitutional Law with a proven background, in 2000 he became the Congress deputy with the most votes in the country, and many thought he risked throwing away a promising parliamentary career to face the real world and the seemingly overwhelming local government, where his natural talent could have been blemished. Now, as his term comes to an end, he has proven that he can climb mountains, fix roads, collect waste and address harsh police issues, and his legal and political baggage make him a suitable spokesperson for Regional Power, which is under threat by the rise of so-called Communes.

-Are people aware that the movement dubbed Communal Power is a result of Marxist-Leninist theories, inspired by the Paris Commune of 1871 and later applied by the real socialist regimes in Russia, China, Cuba and other countries?

-To think that the everyday people are aware of this bit of history may be too much to ask. But one must recall that Mao Tse Tung created communes in an impoverished China, stricken by widespread hunger, supposedly to make it autarchic. In fact, one must recall the Soviets of the now-defunct USSR as well. It should be noted that within those failures, there was a marked Marxist, Communist trend labeled Commune.

-But this is an old notion thrown around as a main objective, waiting for the right time to arise.              

-That is why we have set off alarms and have been doing so for quite some time, when there was an intention to make communes constitutional. Many have repeatedly warned against it.

-Communal Power, democratically conceived, is a valid model and in Venezuela, there are some developments in certain mayor's offices, contrasting with the model backed by Chávez, which turn out the exact opposite of what the official sector preaches.

-How does this work under the Constitution? Communal councils are available for services, and organized communities determine who is capable of performing and managing those services. We have sports facilities operating efficiently, handed over to groups or management boards comprised of neighbors, who are the main interested parties. Then, with constant advisory from the Mayor's Office, they maintain and manage those facilities rationally. This is in stark contrast with those who after damaging community assets wait around for the Mayor's Office to fix them. You foster joint accountability between citizens and the local public administration more efficiently.

-What is the difference between communal councils and communes and how are they structured?

-Communal councils are social organizations pursuing a common interest among neighbors of a sector. In turn, communes are territorial political entities, capable of legislating and not subject to municipal or regional laws. Also, they are authorized to manage and use, concurrently, the same powers that the Constitution grants to municipalities in a parallel State.

-They are both legislative and executive powers at the same time.

-At the same time. In addition, they are not elected directly, secretly or universally, but in assemblies and in discriminatory fashion because the People's Power Ministry for Communes determines what communal councils have voting rights in those assemblies to elect the communal parliament. The latter, in turn, votes for who will carry out executive duties within the commune. These are second or third tier elections. They are not personal appointments; they are essentially collective. Most important of all, this figure is not set forth in our territorial laws.

-Would the actual goals of a joint-government experience transcend?

-Communal councils are not aimed at instilling socialism. In the law establishing the creation of communes, however, communism is one of the objectives. They are discriminatory with regards to citizen participation.

-Can all communal councils take part in this process?

-Only those endorsing the concept of Socialism of the 21st Century.

-That practically means that the middle class would be left out.

-As well as many popular sectors where communal councils, not ruled by the official sector, have worked to the benefit of their communities.

-What happens to bodies ascribed to Regional Power?

-They may be left running on empty with regards to powers and resources. Pursuant to law, communes may address security, health, utilities and everything else municipalities can.

-Is that possible or feasible?

-It is heading straight toward failure, but it may nonetheless do away with decentralization, a project that required so much effort from Venezuelans and did not come to fruition until the initial elections for governors and mayors in 1989. Unfortunately, that process did not surge forward because the constitutional reform was frozen and later became the Constituent Assembly. Decentralization is more than just elections; it implies resource management and giving people the power to comment on the use of those resources. But the current frenzied collectivization and centralization process, under the guise of giving power to the people, is doomed to fail because it solely seeks to centralize the only powers available to individuals.      

-Just like you predict failure, they have probably foreseen it as well.

-Whenever the structure of the State is ideologized (and the president said so himself), the important thing is no longer the candidate who wins an election, but the ideology backing his or her policies. That is why public policies have failed. But they do not care because they feel triumphant in having control over citizens and the State. President Chávez is more interested in control than in the success of public policies, like any other Marxist.

Translated by Félix Rojas Alva
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