The Constituent Assembly voted today to make sweeping changes to Caracas’ administrative landscape, erasing the capital city’s metropolitan boundaries. The measure means that the office of Mayor of Caracas no longer exists.
Up until today, Caracas was made up of five municipalities and one alcaldia mayor [roughly, “greater municipality”]. The five municipalities that make up the city–Baruta, El Hatillo, Chacao, Libertador and Sucre–all have their own mayors, and all operated within the boundaries of the Metropolitan District of Caracas. The Metropolitan District had a mayor, who was effectively the mayor of the entire city.
The mayor of the Metropolitan District of Caracas was leading opposition figure Antonio Ledezma, who was arrested at his office on February 19 2015 and subsequently became a political prisoner. He escaped Venezuela via Colombia on November 17 of this year, and now lives in Europe where he continues to work against the Maduro regime.
Constituent Assembly president Delcy Rodriguez praised the dismantling of the Metropolitan Area of Caracas as a step in the right direction, since according to her the office had “lost relevance” in recent years.
With the same measure, the Constituent Assembly also erased the High Apure District, which was a similar administrative region located in Apure state.
Opposition Decries Measure
Ali Mansour, the official left in charge of the Metropolitan District of Caracas in Ledezma’s absence, called today’s move by the Constituent Assembly an assault on democracy, and suggested that the Constituent Assembly did not give his office any advance warning of the measure.
Mansour also worried about the fact that, as matters stand at this moment, thousands of workers with the city have lost their jobs. He said:
The Mayoralty of Metropolitan Caracas is made up of three entities: City Council, the Mayor’s office, and the Metropolitan Region’s Comptroller’s [Office]. More than 5,000 workers are affected.
Maria Corina Machado, the head if the Vente Venezuela party, said that the measure was tantamount to “dissolving the republic”, since it fundamentally altered the political landscape of the country without any input from the legislature or public debate. She also considers that the Constituent Assembly’s measures are evidence that the ongoing dialogue between the PSUV and the opposition Mesa de la Unidad Democratica (MUD) bloc is a farce.
Machado’s comments were echoed by Tomas Guanipa, the secretary general of the Primero Justicia party, who said that the erasure of the High Apure and Metropolitan Caracas districts is a clear violation of the Constitution, in which the two administrative regions are entrenched.
Constituent Assembly Inches Closer to Banning Parties from Next Election
The Constituent Assembly also approved a motion requiring that any political party that wants to participate in an election must have participated in the vote immediately preceding it. Otherwise, those that party must apply for validation from the government before participating in the election.
The measure follows Maduro’s call on December 12 to prohibit any party that did not participate in the December 10 municipal election from taking part in next year’s presidential vote. Maduro’s call was seen as a direct attack against his political opponents, since the largest opposition parties–Primero Justicia, Voluntad Popular and Accion Democratica–decided to not participate in the municipal election.
Maduro’s call to ban parties from taking part in the next election is not grounded on any Venezuelan legal principle or precedent, and was widely decried by regime critics as yet another sign of his tightening authoritarian grip in the country.
Constituent Assembly president Delcy Rodriguez said that the measure is necessary to fight back against the “imperial aggression” against Venezuela, which she believes manifested itself this time through the opposition parties’ decision to not participate in the December 10 election.
Rodriguez also made comments to the effect that participation in elections is mandatory, a concept that is also absent from Venezuelan law. Rodriguez said:
Let it be forbidden–under any concept [sic]–for the boycott of the Venezuelan people’s [sic] participation in their right to vote. On the contrary, let political participation be rewarded and strengthened.
Venezuela’s political parties–including the ones targeted by today’s decision from the Constituent Assembly–already took part in a lengthy and onerous validation process this year.
Florido: Constituent Assembly Attack on Dialogue Partners “Paradoxical”
National Assembly deputy Luis Florido of the Primero Justicia (PJ) party reacted to news out of the Constituent Assembly today by saying that it is “paradoxical” that the Maduro regime is attempting to ban his party from the presidential election, given the fact that PJ is leading the dialogue effort with the regime.
Florido posted the following message on his Twitter account:
It is paradoxical for the government (Constituent Assembly) to annul the parties that are participating in the international negotiation process. Does this mean that the government’s delegation will sit down to talk with illegal parties? Could it be that there are some who do not want the negotiation to continue alongside the international community?
Motta Dominguez: “Bamboo Stick” Caused Outage That Plunged Caracas, Three States into Darkness
Minister of Electrical Energy Luis Motta Dominguez announced late last night that a massive power outage that knocked out electricity for much of Caracas as well as Miranda and Vargas states on Monday was caused by a “bamboo stick”. Dominguez also made it clear that the stick had been used deliberately by an unknown saboteur to cause the outage.
During the press conference, Dominguez explained that the suspect–who is currently under arrest–used “a kind of bamboo stick with a hook on it” to somehow cause enough damage to the Santa Teresa electrical substation to knock out power to millions of customers for much of the day on Monday. Dominguez said that the stick was found 200 meters from the electrical plant.
On Monday, Dominguez said that a single important cable connected the Santa Teresa substation to the power grid had suffered some kind of critical failure, causing the outage.
Miguel Lara, an engineer and former director of the Office for Planning of Interconnected Systems, was not convinced by Dominguez’s explanation. Lara claims that it is absurd to claim that damage to a single cable could have caused the outage, and that the Santa Teresa substation is not in fact responsible for providing power to the entire region affected by Monday’s outage. Lara said:
Who can believe that the electrical service to the capital region and important areas of Miranda and Vargas states depends on a single cable? That is not true. It is not correct. Minister [Dominguez’s] comments reveal to facts: a deep ignorance of electrical systems, and the level of abandon affecting electrical infrastructure.
Lara explained the Sur OMZ substation located in the area can provide electricity to Caracas and Vargas states even if Santa Teresa were offline. Lara said that Sur OMZ can come online “in real time, instantaneously” if Santa Teresa fails, which means that “no one in Caracas or in Vargas” should have been affected by Monday’s outage.
Lara also questioned the fact that it took approximately five hours to restore electrical service on Monday. He said:
No one can explain how, if it was just a matter of a single cable, it took so long to resolve the issue.
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