Sunday, August 6, 2017

Aucan Huilcaman: Venezuela and the Right of Self Determination

2 August 2017

Recently, over the past two decades, two National Constituent Assemblies have been held in Venezuela. Both have taken place in a context of high tensions and controversies among Venezuelans. The first in 1999 was not exempt from opposing positions and resistance to change, where obviously economic interests underlie and especially due to the fundamental nature and characteristics of the constitutional acts.

Regarding the impression that the convocation of a National Constituent Assembly on the part of the government of Nicolás Maduro would have been an considered an arbitrary act, unlawful and unconstitutional, it should be noted that under the Constitution of the Bolivarian Republic of Venezuela in the provisions that specify the institutions which have the competency and powers to convene an event of this political nature, which may call for a reform, a plebiscite or a National Constituent Assembly, include the President of the Republic together with his ministers. Definitely, at this time the president of the Republic exercised a constitutional power provided for in the constitutional norm.

Likewise, to make it seem that the National Electoral Council CNE operated in collusion with the current government in the context of the National Constituent Assembly is totally absurd, because like all electoral bodies in a "state of law" the functions of the CNE are stipulated in the law.  This would be like thinking and accepting that in Chile the SERVEL Electoral Service would take a position of rebellion in order to satisfy a sector of society and enter into actions as an institution of disrespect and contempt for the law, situations which are also addressed in the legal system of a State.

In short, the National Electoral Council fulfilled its institutional function and organized the elections, including informing all citizens and receiving, in due time, the names of the candidates who exercised their right to compete and without political discrimination or of any kind. However, in the case of the Indigenous Peoples, a procedural distinction was recognized and exercised due to the fact that the Indigenous Peoples enjoy a special juridical status and that will be discussed next.

The Venezuelan voting system, "is the best in the world," said former United States President Jimmy Carter in 2012 after many verifications and in addition, in order “to see to believe”, this situation I could confirm personally, taking into account my participation in other electoral processes such as when I served as an observer of the Peace Agreements for the United Nations Mission in Guatemala MINUGUA.

To give credibility and transparency in the elections the Bolivarian government has instituted the highest technology, establishing a biometric system that, based on my experience "in situ", I could elaborate in four consecutive steps and explain this situation because it not only constitutes a novelty for my own experience as an international observer, but because this system does not exist in other countries.

The first step is the presentation of a national identity card previously established in a registry with the electoral commission and if it coincides and is good, the next step to check the information on the card with the technological systems of record. All the data provided by whoever is voting must match, and then if the system matches the name, the fingerprint and a photograph then the same person must recognize and verify his or her identity. 

Then the individual completes the third step and goes to cast his vote secretly and once the voter has cast his vote, the voting machine gives him a printed vote that the voter must confirm his preference and then deposit his vote in a ballot box and finally before leaving the voting station, the voter must sign a book as proof that he or she issued their vote independently, free of outside interference. These four passages also highlight a familiarization with the biometric system.

In the eight electoral stations where I was assigned in order to verify the election processes, I verified that the performance of each person was not subject to coercion or threats in the independent exercise of the issuance of their vote.  I followed several people who were in the voting ranks until the manifestation of their vote and I did not observe the interference of another person.

During the week that I stayed in Caracas, I was able to appreciate that the tensions and controversies that are experienced in Venezuela have their origin largely in the institutional changes that have been established since the arrival of the late President Hugo Chavez, which produced not only a counterbalance in power relations, but, historically excluded sectors of the Venezuelan people were successful in moving into positions of administration of the Venezuelan State.  For example, the Supreme Court of Justice is composed preferably by people of humble extraction, that is, their fulfillment of duty to justice in the Court is determined more by their merits and competencies and not their social extraction as commonly happens with the power structures in Latin America and the Caribbean.

The international media in Venezuela have displayed in a very clear and effective way the true nature of the fourth power, and the national media have mostly done nothing more than to accommodate and reproduce the messages and images of the international media industry. By way of example, Air Fance and Avianca suspended their flights to Caracas, however other airlines continued to operate with total normality. However, the normality was not news, and instead the story of Air France and Avianca contributed to create unnecessary uncertainties.

If you were to make a comparison, Venezuela is today's North Africa, because of the fact that it has the world's largest energy reserve of petroleum, and the business boycott has similar characteristics with the situation in Chile from ‘70 to ‘73.

It is extremely important to bear in mind that the realization of the National Constituent Assembly in Venezuela is an act of self-determination of the Peoples of Venezuela and is not subject to the approval of another State. Although other international entities have the right to express their opinion, the Right of Self-determination is a Principle of International Law which is fully consistent with the Charter of the United Nations, and based on these fundamental principles governing the multilateral relations of States, the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights has called for international respect for the results of the National Constituent Assembly in Venezuela.

The right to protest in Venezuela is guaranteed as in any state where the "rule of law" is recognized, and this is the context for all the manifestations that have been realized before and during the development of the election of the national constituent assembly.  That there are prisoners, there definitely are, and for this reason I personally invited the wife of Leopoldo López to visit the Mapuche political prisoners in Chile, although there is a great difference in the character of the rights that have been violated against the Mapuche People, from the military coercive acts called "Pacification of the Araucanía" until today.

On the other hand, the election of a number of eight constituents to the national assembly from different Indigenous Peoples of Venezuela constitutes an event of high political significance, being that as is stipulated in the Bolivarian Political Constitution of Venezuela, the rights as Indigenous Peoples ranging from tangible and intangible rights to land, territories, resources, intellectual property, biodiversity and development, culture, language and others are recognized.

Two facts distinguish this new political situation. First, the procedure respects the Indigenous Peoples right of self-determination fully consistent with international law regarding indigenous self-determination as established in the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples. However, the Indigenous Peoples of Abya Yala [America and the Caribbean], presently are only conceded the right to consultation regarding development projects that impact their peoples and territories. 

Now, in the case of the National Constituent Assembly of Venezuela, the enormous difference is made evident between consultation and the right to self-determination, and it should be to take into account that every such consultation carried out in the different countries from Mexico to the south must be to be questioned for the bad faith under which they are manipulated and manufactured, and Chile is the best example.

Secondly, the eight Indigenous Constituents of the National Assembly of Venezuela have as mandate the mission to protect their collective rights which have been achieved with the struggle of all Indigenous Peoples and to move forward to advance these rights, indicating that they are creating their own destiny with the intent of achieving harmony with the rest of society.

By: Aucan Huilcaman

Caracas, August 2, 2017
Crónica Digital



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