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INTERVIEW | Margarita López Maya

"Chávez deification seeks to legitimize Maduro"

"We are heading for the establishment of a communal State, which is not covered by the Constitution"

In the historian's opinion, the Rule of Law should not be breached in the name of people's will (Photo: Gustavo Bandres)
SARA CAROLINA DÍAZ |  EL UNIVERSAL
Saturday January 19, 2013  12:00 AM
Strengthening the emerging leadership of Venezuelan Vice-President Nicolás Maduro is the top priority of Chavezism, in the process of reorganization to underpin the heir apparent of President Hugo Chávez. According to historian and analyst Margarita López Maya, the government purports to shroud the great leader of the 19th Century in a mythical-religious aura to legitimize the anointed as the new champion of the Bolivarian revolution.

What happened on January 10? (The day scheduled for the sworn-in ceremony of Venezuela's president-elect Hugo Chávez)

We witnessed the beginning of a process that seeks to legitimate a newborn political regime of a quasi-religious nature. Chavezism is eager for a version of people's sovereignty virtually anchored in religious beliefs. They try to conceptualize people's will as sort of deity with President Chávez turning into the incarnated leader of such people's will. Such an incarnated leader seems to vanish soon and needs a successor, that is, Nicolás Maduro.  The whole ceremony (in reference to the symbolic inauguration of President Chávez in his absence on January 10) looked like a liturgy. The purpose is to legitimize the successor by means of such religious system of symbols.

Why? Otherwise, Maduro would not be accepted?

Perhaps for this reason, the issue of the president's temporary or complete absence is being procrastinated. They try to develop and cement a religious legitimacy surrounding Chávez, able to enhance the leadership of Nicolás Maduro in preparation for eventual election. The big question mark is to what extent civilian leadership is instilled into the Venezuelan society as something religious. The middle class has no religious ties whatsoever with politics. Such a link is very harmful for politics. They will try to rule in the name of Chávez; they will try to be Chávez's successors. This might work for a while. However, the Venezuelan society is polarized. Just like President Chávez has aroused big love; he has stirred up hatred. Anyhow, at the end of the day, those leaders are not Chávez.

Don't you think that such quasi-religious narrative was prompted by the very President Chávez -and the Venezuelan and Latin American leftwing- from the coup attempt of 1992; the events of April 13, 2002 and later, in framing sort of myth around those events?

Legitimacy for governance is among the main problems of the political order in Latin America. The Venezuelan government has worked as a caudillo of the 19th Century. President Chávez has led like a caudillo with messianic features from the outset. This has been the case since 1998, and he amasses all the features to be a caudillo both in Venezuela and Latin America.

Do you think that the president's disease enhanced such a magic surrounding him, prayers, calling him "the father," the successor of Liberator Simón Bolívar and, lately, the commander of one thousand miracles?

The religious portion has been reinforced over the past few years. It is not news because the theory of populism refers to the religious nuances of a populist, charismatic leader, and Chávez has been so from the very beginning. Over the past few years, and particularly as a result of his disease, emphasis has been made on President Chávez's messianic, religious character; stress has been laid to deify him. I think that on January 10, an attempt was made at legitimizing a dull, feeble leadership, like that of Nicolás Maduro or Chavezism as a whole. They intend to legitimize the communal State and Chávez's leadership, in preparation for election soon. The Mexican revolution was based on its leaders' legitimacy. PRI managed to rule for 70 years by charging in the name of the revolution, on behalf of Emiliano Zapata.

The event of Thursday, January 10, was held in the name of people's sovereignty: "All of us are Chávez."

People's will is deified in the name of people sovereignty and the Rule of Law is ignored. It is a paradox. Both people's will and the Rule of Law that ensures rules, living together, and minorities' rights are needed for democracy; people's will alone is not enough. Both direct democracy and the Rule of Law are needed. Many said that day was like Orwell's 1984. I take sides with them. January 10 featured constitutional act took that violated the Constitution. They turned the speech upside down.

Will Chavezism keep together?

Chávez showed the Constitution and instructed what should be done. The breach on January 10 in the name of people's will was very serious. People's will should be expressed in the ballots. If that is broken, Chavezism will fail to be united. As for the foreign opinion, international support will not linger long. Thus far, Chavezism has kept the issue of direct democracy with polls. Failing to keep such a commitment would be paid dearly, and this would mean the collapse of Chavezism. In the meantime, we bear witness to the steps at legitimizing the regime based on the dissemination of Chávez as a religious leader. We are to see some more eccentricities. It is a political strategy intended to galvanize week leaders, such as Maduro and (Congress Speaker Diosdado) Cabello in the advent of the election.

Nevertheless, the Supreme Tribunal of Justice (TSJ) made reference to continuity; no date was set for such election.

The Rule of Law has become weaker and weaker, particularly throughout the second term in office of President Chávez. No power controls the Executive Office; there are not checks and balances, and this (the decision made by the TSJ) is the strongest blow because it is related to the presidency. Maduro has troubles to rule in such illegitimate conditions. Maduro and the regime pursue legitimacy by deifying Chávez.

What is the regime we are heading for?

We are heading for the communal State, different from participatory democracy, not established in the Constitution. They will try to take us out of liberal democracy and lead us to the communal State, assembly-like democracy, which does not rely on individuals but the collective. There is no direct, universal and secret suffrage there; it is a State with authoritarian features, like socialism of the 20th Century. Apotheosis of the religious imagery is coming, bolstered by the national government, because it is a way of remaining in office.

Translated by Conchita Delgado
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