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Venezuela's Upside down accountability

By Veneconomy

14.07.05 | Last Tuesday, the National Assembly rejected a vote of censure against the Minister for Internal Affairs, Jesse Chacón, thanks to the majority on the government benches. The motion was submitted by the opposition benches as a result of the shooting down of three university students in Kennedy. Other arguments supporting the motion included the increase in the levels of insecurity, the lack of control regarding the possession of firearms, and the lack of professionalization among the State’s security personnel. This decision provides food for thought on two fronts:

The first is that this censure motion was rejected by 89 votes against cast by government coallition supporters to 44 in favor cast by the deputies on the opposition benches. Once again the government majority won the day over the opposition parties, whose presence in parliament is already precarious. However, it is totally unacceptable that, on this occasion, 35 opposition deputies were absent from a debate that is so important for the lives of the Venezuelans they represent. While it is true that it would not have been possible to pass the motion even if they had all been present, the outcome would have been far less shameful. This is something for which the absentees should be made accountable when, in December 2005 they go cap in hand to the voters to ask them for their support in order to get reelected for another term.

The second point worthy of note is the “automatic solidarity” that characterizes this government, something that has favored impunity for any arbitrary, illegal, unconstitutional or criminal acts (or omissions) committed by anyone belonging to the horde behind the revolutionary process.

The world over, when companies or government identify an irregularity or crime, the person who is in charge of the organization at the time is held responsible and is also the first to receive punishment, regardless of whether or not he or she was directly involved. Subsequently, the responsibility of those in the chain of command is established from the top down to the person who was directly responsible, along with the corresponding sanctions. Today in Venezuela, contrary to this worldwide practice, those who head up institutions neither take responsibility nor are they punished.

It would be logical to expect, for example, that in the case of the students who were massacred in Kennedy, at least all the heads of the security forces involved in the incident would have been dismissed and severely punished. Another thing that would have contributed to the transparency of the investigation would have been if the National Assembly had taken the trouble to seriously analyze whether the people in authority at these security agencies merited the vote of censure.

But is so happens that, in Venezuela, accountability is upside down. They start at the bottom and, in the event it is decided that punishment is in order, it is meted out to the person who has the least support in the chain of command, and not only are the chiefs of the revolutionary process not punished when they incurr in irregularities or illegal acts or perform badly, they are more often than not “rewarded” with better positions and more privileges.

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