The history of free men is never written by chance but by choice — their choice. — Dwight Eisenhower.
EspañolDecember 6 was a special day for Venezuela. Voters not only chose their representatives in the legislature, they also decided to restore an institution that has caved in to the executive branch during many years.
As of late, the Venezuelan National Assembly has surrendered its role as a lawmaking institution by passing the infamous Enabling Laws, which hugely increased the president’s power. The legislative branch has also refused to investigate or summon government officials, failing to exercise its role in our system of checks and balances.
The circumstances prior to election day were grim, but we Venezuelans put all our heart and effort into restoring the legislature as a public institution.
For those unfamiliar with Venezuela’s electoral system, I should note that the entire process is overseen by the military, a sign of our system’s undemocratic and uncivilized nature.
In the days leading up to the election, regular citizens expressed their fear of electoral fraud and violence. The opposition wasn’t only focused on winning a majority at the National Assembly; a major concern was ensuring that the government didn’t tamper with the election results at the last minute.
Our elections are not a celebration of democracy, but a very real struggle for freedom.
Perhaps more than ever, Venezuelans took to the polls while aware that an enormous task lies ahead. We knew that we, the citizenry, would have to help the new National Assembly members face huge challenges.
These elections were, literally, a matter of life or death for Venezuelans. We’re suffering one of the world’s highest inflation rates. Food and medicine are dangerously scarce. Mounting insecurity has taken a very real toll on human lives.
Passing laws won’t solve these problems, but it’s a good start to have a National Assembly that understands that legislation shouldn’t trample upon individuals’ rights. Rather, the law should allow individuals to exert their rights. We have certainly come a long way toward restoring the country’s institutions, which underpin the rule of law.
But we are far from done. On the contrary, the opposition’s victory only allows us to begin to restore the legislature. The National Assembly must act responsibly. It has to reform its own internal rules of procedures, which the Chavistas changed in order to reduce congressional activity.
The new Assembly must revise the entire legal code, which is full of mandates, decrees, orders, and congressional authorizations, as opposed to “true laws” as defined by Friedrich Hayek. And it has to begin to exert control over the rest of the Venezuelan state. The National Assembly, in other words, must rescue all other democratic institutions.
Just as the National Assembly must fulfill its vital duties, we citizens must be up to the task of demanding fair election results. We must also monitor individual congressmen and those institutions which the Chavistas have hijacked.
On Monday morning, we Venezuelans woke up with a heavy burden on our shoulders. We will carry it with a great sense of duty, because we wish to live well and free. It is no longer enough to simply survive as we have done for the past 16 years.
Today, I can say that poet George Steiner was right when he said that the “error of having hope” was worth making. I have discovered that being hopeful is not always a mistake; it can also be the beginning of something new.