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Venezuela's Social Contract breached by Hugo Chavez

By Aleksander Boyd

18.12.05 | The 90% plus abstention of December 4 assembly elections served as ultimate confirmation of the hypothesis that Hugo Chavez has breached the Social Contract in Venezuela. Further, the hypothesis has reached theory status. In "Consent of the governed" Michael Rowan makes a series of valid points, namely "Governments are instituted by the governed, not by executive decree. Governments earn legitimacy from the consent of the governed, not from consent with itself. Democracy and pluralism and tolerance and dissent are not rights the government provides to the governed, but which inhere in the spirit of the governed." (Sic). The verdict, as Rowan observed, is in. By abstaining from participating in the plebiscite Venezuelans effectively torn off the pseudo democratic costume of Hugo Chavez, who is now in breach of contract.

The Social Contract

Societies function, in general terms, on the basis of a contract of the social sort. In Greek times, Socrates, in conversation with Crito, made a compelling case in favour of upholding the Social Contract. At a much later date Thomas Hobbes reaffirms the Greek's predicament in Leviathan, which symbolises the State. Hobbes contended that the assembly of men or society cedes voluntarily and temporarily its natural rights to the State that shall in exchange care for, protect and provide to society. Hobbes views were reinforced and substantially ameliorated by the liberal John Locke, who advocated for separation of powers and introduced the concept of "checks and balances." Then came Jean Jacques Rousseau, whose book “The Social Contract” laid the basis for the third theory of social contract. He agreed with Locke about the affable nature of the individual arguing instead on the fairness of the social contract. That man did not set out voluntarily to enter into such a binding relationship with the State was out of the question, the issue being the negotiation of those terms of the contract considered unfair. Loss of negotiating power with the State could only be resolved revolting against it.

In all cases the ceding of rights makes for valuable enough consideration, ergo any of the parties disregarding promises can be made accountable for breach.

Contract law is an alien premise to most Venezuelans. Given that the country's legal system is based on Napoleonic or Civil Code and not in Common Law, of which Contract Law is an integral part, it does not surprise the learned observer that Hugo Chavez has, at best, scant consideration vis-a-vis the Social Contract; at worse sheer disregard for the civil law principle of "Pacta sunt servanda." What's more how can Chavez, in this case representing the State, be made accountable for breaking his end of a deal, which he does not wish to recognize much less abide by its contractual terms, when he has absolute control of the judiciary?

It is fair to say that the sole avenue left for Venezuelans is precisely to stop participating in chavista democratic affairs, thus withholding the inherent legitimacy that people's participation represent and depriving the autocrat of it. In "The Politics of Non Violent Action" Gene Sharp explains in exquisite detail the source of political power:

...political power can be viewed as fragile, always dependent for its strenght and replenishment of its sources by the cooperation of a multitude of institutions and people. [p. 8 Part one: power and Struggle]

Sharp states "If political power is not intrinsic to the power-holder, it follows that it must have outside sources." (sic) [p. 11 Part one: Power and Struggle]. He goes on to describe six sources of power, namely: authority, human resources, skills and knowledge, intangible factors, material sources and sanctions. Regarding human resources Sharp contends that the level of people's cooperation and obeyance to a ruler affects directly its power. In other words the greater the disposition of Venezuelans to continue withstanding Hugo Chavez's pseudo revolution the more powerful he becomes. Since more than 90% of Venezuelans showed on December 4 utter indifference in supporting Chavez's brand of 'democracy' one can conclude that his is a de facto dictatorship. For he has demonstrated ad nauseam his unwillingness to respect the will of the people.

The relevance of international opinion

By now it must be understood that local dissent is not something that deprives El Supremo's sleep. However recent developments demonstrate that international criticism towards his kleptocratic regime do affect him. Prime example is the smear campaign geared at undermining the credibility of the international electoral observation missions deployed recently by the Organization of American States, the European Union and Spain. It is also important that Latin American analysts and scholars opining on Venezuelan issues do so firmly based on facts. For instance, Mark Falcoff considers that Chavez is but "an unpleasant fever" (sic) whereas Steven Johnson argues that the autocrat has "all three branches under his thumb" (sic). Both comments are factually inaccurate. For a gullible, deranged and megalomanic individual who controls unrestrainedly the immense proceeds of Latin America's second largest commercial conglomerate, and is hellbent in 'revolutionizing' the region, can hardly be qualified as a simple nuisance. His extraordinary financial muscle ought not to be taken lightly, specially in a region characterised by abject poverty and rampant corruption. On the other hand, as with the absence of contract law, the Venezuelan State is not divided in three branches of power but in five. The Citizen -Attorney General's, Comptroller's and Ombudsman's offices- and Electoral powers, are also under Chavez's boot. What this means is that Venezuelans, effectively, lack means of seeking redress against an increasingly ominous police-state. In any functioning democracy the discovery of a head of government ordering the construction, and admitting in public the existence, of a database to be used for political prosecution purposes and to harass the citizenry would mean repudiation by society, impeachment and immediate dismissal. Not in Venezuela though, were El Supremo can in fact get away with murder.

Breach of Social Contract

Article 3 of the chavista constitution reads:

The essential purposes of the State are the protection and development of the individual and respect for the dignity of the individual, the democratic exercise of the will of the people, the building of a just and peace-loving society, the furtherance of the prosperity and welfare of the people and the guaranteeing of the Fulfillment of the principles, rights and duties established in this Constitution.

Education and work are the fundamental processes for guaranteeing these purposes.

Whereas article 5 establishes:

Sovereignty resides untransferable in the people, who exercise it directly in the manner provided for in this Constitution and in the law, and indirectly, by suffrage, through the organs exercising Public Power. The organs of the State emanate from and are subject to the sovereignty of the people.

One must pause here, ponder upon the meaning of these two articles and try to reconcile their constitutional significance with the actions of the illegitimate president of Venezuela. No respect whatsoever is due to a president that has so evidently violated our natural rights, let alone our constitutional ones. Since the organs of the Venezuelan State emanate from and are subject to our inherent sovereignty, why should we put up with Hugo Chavez? Why Venezuelans must bear with an intolerable anti-democratic autocrat? Is it not unmissable the fact that he has breached the Social Contract?

Imagine this scenario in the presidential campaign of 1998 when Chavez got elected. Picture Chavez in a rally shouting:

- Vote for me, and crime shall increase and criminals will be given official posts;

- Vote for me, and I shall impose many restrictions on private enterprise so that it will become increasingly difficult to for you to get employment;

- If you give me your vote, I shall send the army to confiscate your property;

- PDVSA, our great enterprise, shall be systematically destroyed if you elect me;

- Disenfranchised citizens of other nations will be given preference over you, and our resources shall be given away to them for free;

- Cuban intelligence agents will spy on those of you that dislike me, and dictator Fidel Castro will become my first and foremost partner;

- Those Colombian guerrilleros whose narcoterrorist endeavours have tainted with blood so many Venezuelan households, will be invited here, given citizenship, support and military protection;

- Those of you who dare to oppose my views shall be monitored, identified in public and denied all sorts of services, the moment I get elected you lose your rights until I decide otherwise;

- I will turn the poor of this country into an army of undignified beggars; the moment they fail to vote for me I will stop all benefits;

- Civil servants ought to be well advised to pledge solidarity to me and do whatever I demand from them in order to defend my revolution or else lose their jobs;

- The ones seeking to destabilize my government shall be killed, prosecuted and imprisoned;

- I will determinedly and actively seek to bring to an end the 100-year-long peace period that this country has enjoyed, even though I may fail to identify a real foreign enemy I shall seed so much hatred on you that you will want to kill each other;

- Some of you may wish to emigrate; be advised that I will become the icon of the globe's resented pariahs who shall insult and disrespect you anywhere you go;

- This is in fact the last time you get to elect a president for in the future I will win all elections, regardless of whether or not you vote for me;

- In sum, dear compatriots, the party-duopoly that brought me here shall be anhilitated and replaced by a power-hoarding model composed of one party, mine, which shall control all governmental aspects and society in order to perpetuate itself indefinitely, as my great idol Castro has done.

After 7 years of unstopped abuses more than 90% of us have realised who Hugo Chavez is; his fall is only a matter of time for sovereignty belongs to us and it is only through our cooperation and concourse that he can claim to be legitimate and powerful. No more. As Antonio Sanchez Garcia wrote the other day "Venezuelans won't let themselves be courted and enamoured twice by the same ruffian."

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