64 thoughts on “Is Venezuela a democracy?

  1. I get your point. The problem is that you don’t mention how increasingly difficult, if impossible, it is to get a job in the public sector if you are not affiliated with the ruling party. It may be that we are just using an obsolete definition of democracy, but I don’t see how we can call it that when employees of PDVSA are forced to go on marches, and would be fired if they publicly opposed Chavez.

  2. Juan I desagree fundamentally to your latest piece. When minorities’ rights are not protected in spite on conflicting majority wishes, there is no democracy.

    Also you fail to give the wiehgt i Think it deserves to the institution of “law”. In Venezuela there is no rule of law but a fetish in apearance of the rule of law. If a law is inconvenient to the goverment, a pseudo procedure is put in place to change the law. Period.

    People are lost in the constant noise and have been conditioned to newspeak.

    La Ilegalidad is a word with no meaning, because law has no meaning either.

    Case in point latest change of voting circuits for proposed new governor candidates from the PSUV.

    Mind you, every society has the govermet it deserves, and in that much we agree.

      • De jure segregation as implemented in this long period of US history was definetelly a develomental phase. It had historical roots and determined the civil movement revolution of the 50s and 60….

        voter franchises grew from the lords, to those with lands, to the burguesse, to woman vote, to universal vote…. Every society has had its ofn development. This is not waht we are talking about here.

        If you compare this to our technological apartheid juan, ours is even worse.

        Jim Crow was de jure. Venezuelan opposition is been denied political and human basic rights de facto. There is no written decree, bylaw or law stating that if you requested the recall you are to be demoted, expelled or prevented from gaining public jobs, state benefits, etc. but we all know how it goes…

        So once again, i disagree with your piece.
        There is no democracy in Venezuela, but a new breed authoritarian regime.

        So new -breed and so smart, that it has managed to have its adversaries play the role of advocvates of its devious ways! (its a democrcy…., … el sistema electoral es justo…., ….no hubo fraude sino ventajismo….,…)

        Really!

        • “There is no written decree, bylaw or law stating that if you requested the recall you are to be demoted, expelled or prevented from gaining public jobs, state benefits, etc. but we all know how it goes…”

          So a bunch of people have a labor problem with the government, and that means we are no longer a democracy? Please…

          • vsalomon, I think its time to leave the conceptual discussions and semantical filigrans behind.

            Look at the big picture and ask yourself waht is going on in Venezuela.
            just a few bullets to chew on:
            >Largest revenues in its history, largest increase on debt and dependancy to new partners like china, russia, iran, cuba etc.

            >Massive emigration and a war like criminal spike.

            >Total disrespect for law and moral in the goverment and state.

            Now back to our discussions of how many angels can dance in the head of a pin….

            • it’s not semantical. Republic and democracy are two different things. We are a democracy, but we are not a republic. If we as opposition think the problem is a democratic one, then we have responses from the opposition like the ones we had in the campaign: listen to the people, improve the misiones, use the oil revenue more efficiently.

              On the other hand, if the problem is a republican one, then we have to think as what is right, whether it is popular or not. Not expecting the people to lead us into how we make opposition, but more something about having a revolution of ideas, changing people’s minds: get government out of our lives, private property is not negotiable, misiones are a transitional concept into a free, prosper, and responsible society that will eventually have to be replaced by real jobs, leading the people into swallowing the red pill i.e. “minimum salary will not be increased but we make a commitment to not steal the value of your current salary and savings via inflation”.

              This is why I don’t think it’s semantics. It’s a matter of vision.

    • The point of the article is that any ilegalidad was refrained by the popular vote that’s why we are a democracy.

      The confusion here is semantic. We don’t need more democracy what we need is the application of our constitution which states that we are a Republic and therefore we have fundamental values that have to be respected. The thing is that our opposition won’t raise those voices, won’t utilize that dialectic. Because deep down the opposition = chavernment.

  3. Let me put it this way: if those who oppose the current government have the deck stacked so high against them that they have a snowball’s chance in hell of a becoming the next government then no, that’s not a Democracy, just a rigged game.

  4. Unlike pregnancy, the existence of democracy is not a simple, yes/no question. Venezuela is not a dictatorship, but nor is it a democracy, at least by the modern, progressive definition of that word. The existence of elections – even if one accepts that the result broadly reflects the view of the majority – does not suffice. Majorities have no right to abolish fundamental human rights, nor to ride roughshod over the constitution. As noted by Maracaiburgh, the Venezuelan government systematically denies its opponents rights that are enshrined in law and international treaty. Even if the electorate can somehow be deemed to have endorsed that by voting for the president to continue in office, that ‘endorsement’ is irrelevant to the point in question. Moreover, the very fact that Chavez was a candidate in this election is the result of a constitutional fraud: the 1999 constitution forbade it, and in 2007 the electorate rejected an attempt to modify the constitution to permit (inter alia) his indefinite re-election. Only by putting the same question in another referendum (explicitly forbidden during the same presidential term) was he able to over-ride the constitutional ban.

  5. Juan Nagel dixit :”…The short answer is yes. Venezuela is a severely dysfunctional, unbelievably corrupt, impossibly dangerous, highly manipulated democracy… but a democracy nonetheless.”

    Whatt is the fetish with a ‘democracy” I ask.

    I do not want “this” democracy for my country, I do not think it is convenient nor sustainable. I think it will collapse and create an even worse landscape. From Tenientes Coroneles we will fall into coups by sargentos…. Venezuela is a failed state.

    …but hey, you want to call it a democracy nonetheless you may. Its your opinion, its your blog and your right.

    Respetuosamente,

    • You remind me of Bill Clinton when con su cara muy lavada dijo “I did not have sex with that woman” Juan when you say that we are a democracy you loose credibility!!!!!!! How dare you say we are a democracy. You want us to say your blog stinks??????????

    • With all due respect, Venezuela is most assuredly NOT a failed state. In many ways, of course, as a state it’s a failure, but that’s not the same thing. One of the salient characteristics of a failed state is the loss of state control in many areas (geographically and otherwise). Venezuela, one might argue, has the opposite – an excess of state control.

  6. “It has been said that democracy is the worst form of government except all the others that have been tried.”

    I agree fully with Juan (and Mr. Churchill) in that yes, despite the fact that Venezuela feels like a tyranny of the uncivilized it is in fact a democracy – sorry if this is hard to digest, eduardorivero. Do I like it? Approve it? Endorse it? Hell no, like LuisF I too do not want “this” democracy for my country… so I moved, made someplace else “my” country, started from scratch and after 7O have decided not to look back.

  7. Juan,

    Firstly, a quibble. You state: “many took the fact that voting machines were fingerprint-activated as reason to believe (mistakenly) that the secrecy of the vote was being compromised.” From Miguel Octavio’s explanation on how the fingerprinting machines would randomize the order of the fingerprints, it is clear that the order in which the voters lined up to provide their fingerprints can be determined from the output in two obvious ways, one of which, having the seed of the randomizing algorithm, provides a 100% determination. They have the seed. So it is not a mistake to believe that the secrecy of the vote has been compromised.

    Secondly, you may be (mistakenly) interchanging the concept of democracy with the implementation of one. Having everyone vote for their favorite candidate is an attempt at establishing a link between the direction in which the winner of such an election drives a nation and the direction in which the people of the nation would drive, but that is not necessarily so. The best democratic implementations would not only assure that the candidate that the people most think would drive the country the way they would want wins, but would also ensure that the candidate does so once elected. Your logic that just because Venezuelans knew what chavez was about means that his direction is what they are choosing is based on a false assumption: the candidate for whom they vote = the direction for which they vote.

    Thirdly, the current voting process has several inherent flaws even in determining the winning candidate. One of them is exemplified, following.

    Which is the more “democratic” option:
    1) candidate A is loved by 60% of the population but despised by the other 40%, or
    2) candidate B is loved by 40% of the population but merely liked by the other 60%?

    Fourthly, as someone pointed out above, democracy is not only about the ruling by the majority, but necessarily also respecting the rights of the minorities. If not, we’re back to the hypocritical scenario depicted in The Lottery by Shirley Jackson.

    Finally, consider the definitions (from dictionary.com) and ask yourself if Venezuela fits, not the letter, but the spirit of democracy:

    de·moc·ra·cy

    1. government by the people; a form of government in which the supreme power is vested in the people and exercised directly by them or by their elected agents under a free electoral system.

    2. a state having such a form of government: The United States and Canada are democracies.

    3. a state of society characterized by formal equality of rights and privileges.

    4. political or social equality; democratic spirit.

    5. the common people of a community as distinguished from any privileged class; the common people with respect to their political power.

    I think not, on all five counts.

    • “…under a free electoral system”. From essential Point 1., Venezuela is not a democracy. All other abuses of democracy in Venezuela derive from the fraudulent empowerment of an elite deriving its power from illegitimate Presidential, Congressional, and soon-to-be Governorship elections.

  8. I am not a big fan of the direction the US Supreme Court is going, and I don’t deny that a Democratic run could “change the face” of the court over time, but I think there is a distinction and a difference between the Venezuelan system where all independence is lost, and justice is either bought or politically directed or both, and a court that leans in a particular direction or even a court with a particular ideological bent. Much as I’d like to think so, I would be surprised to learn that Scalia, Thomas and Roberts sat down on a weekly basis with Rush Limbaugh and a bunch of Wall Street Bankers and maybe a case of cash and decided which way the court would rule. Or that Kagan and Sotomayor were put on the court to carry out Obama’s bidding and destroy capitalism. More likely, they all have learned a particular approach, their friends may tend to think in similar ways, they draw on a particualr set of personal experiences in the world, they have maybe preferred a particular tradition, etc etc. and so that is how they decide cases. Call me naive but that’s how I see it. I see it as different.

    In Venezuela, Scalia would have been jailed by now. I’m no fan, but…

    A democracy does not need perfection, but it needs reasonably independent, functioning, transparent courts.

  9. Autonomy of powers? No
    Respect for political dissidence? No
    Transparency and accountability in the public function? No
    Separation of powers? No
    Impartial judicial system? No
    Fair elections? No
    A sense of nation over the State and the president? No
    Respect for the minorities? No
    Opportune answer to citizens by the government? No
    Open Debate of national issues? No

    Democracy? Give me a break.

    • Gustavo,

      Thank you for clarifying beautifully, you took the words out of my mouth.It is not just a matter of semantics as some people suggest, but rather of reality.Your list is a real list of how Venezuela does not provide a safe, open, free, fair,or honest environment in which to express the will of the people.It is a manipulated environment where Chavistas use tricks against a duped population.

      Calling Venezuela a democracy is similar to calling Belarus a democracy.Though many people still like Lukashenko it is not a democracy because they do not have that much opportunity not to like him because of a restricted and manipulative environment.Even the Europeans don’t call him anything but a dictator.When an environment is restricted and manipulated for votes we NEVER know just how many people really like or support a president.

      Saying we have a democracy in Venezuela only serves the criminals who run the country,
      but does nothing for the opposition.

      I am quite shocked and saddened by this post.

      It most definitely does not serve the opposition.

      • Thought experiment: Suppose a free and fair referendum on giving the comandante presidente sole discretion over half of the oil revenues is held. What do you think the result would be?

        • Ratonfilo,

          If people think that if by not voting ‘yes’, that there will be harsh consequences for them or losses of some kind, or even punishment,

          then the support will not be measurable.

          • I qualified it as a “free and fair” referendum, providing their real answer.

            Furthermore, we can never read the voters’ minds nor should we disqualify their vote for how they think. People in, say, the US may vote one way or the other to avoid a tax increase, to avoid losing their job or to keep the country from being turned into marxist shariah caliphate. Do these “duped”, “manipulated” voters make the US more like a dictatorship?

            • I’m going to jump in here. During the decade I lived in the US, I used to think being an American (read: US citizen) was a religion. I sensed a collective unconscious that pressed on its citizens to ensure that they did not stray. At least, not too far. Since 9/11, that collective unconscious has turned up the heat and created a state of psychosis. Understandable, in part.

              Throughout, what has not changed are certain elements of righteousness among a swath of US citizens who were educated to believe that no one else was or is as special as number one. Over time, that navel gazing has become delusional. For the social fabric has long been fraying beyond Chicago’s south side. But as long as there are groups circlin’ the wagons, applying American ingenuity, flexing military might, and offering bread and circuses, reality can be postponed, as it gets wrapped in silver gauze, albeit with ever larger holes.

              Yes, there are “duped” and “manipulated” voters everywhere, and lately, at a fever pitch in the US.

            • Ratonfilo,

              I think we are discussing why Venezuela is not a democracy, not why the US is not one.

              Aside from the more subjective feelings of any given person who may or may not feel manipulated or pressured etc( which essentially measures nothing outside personal feelings), we can concretely say that the US is not a democracy but rather a Constitutional Republic run by laws and not by the majority.

              Venezuela having a strongman as president whose influence goes way beyond the will of the people could be considered an Oligarchy
              (a form of government in which all power is vested in a few persons or in a dominant class or clique; government by the few.)…

              It uses the fig leaf of Democracy by holding nontransparent elections, and by using State funds to coerce and buy off.The Oligarchy of Venezuela consists of Narco Generals, a Caudillo, and the cligue of Fidel Castro, who last I heard was on the extreme left where big government basically crushes the will of the people and makes a mockery of law.

              The Tascon list is a concrete example of the possible consequences of not voting for the Cuadillo.

  10. I think part of the prickliness of this question is that there is an inborn wish or need to label a country as ‘something'; since Venezuela used to have relatively vigorous democratic traits, adopted by choice, there is a reluctance to call it otherwise despite all the evidence,as per Mr. Coronel above, to the contrary. One could throw in ‘threats of civil war if election results are unpalatable’ as a further clue to how distant Venezuela’s current stance is from any configuration of ‘democracy’. As the gent intones, “Give us a break”, which is fair comment, wouldn’t you have opined?.

  11. May we all agree that democracy needs to be defined for Venezuela?

    For it should be clear to most commenters that Venezuelan democracy cannot rely on lofty principles, which are not always attainable, even in the US or Canada, where governments have more or less worked for 50 years or more.

    It never ceases to amaze me when Venezuelans (I being 50% of one) delude themselves into thinking that their home country has the historical right to define itself as an idealized version of democracy.

    People: Get real. Given the vast shabbiness in social, political and educational systems, for generations, it’s doubtful that Venezuela can ever come close to an idealized version of democracy, or even close to what’s known in more northern latitudes.

    • that is helpful, JotaE. I’d say Vz had a flawed democracy in the 4th republic … except that adults were forced to vote, back then. Call it a deeply flawed democracy under the guise of liberalism. Now things are worse.

  12. You know, it bothers me that only one person in this discussion mentions that in 2007 we said NO to the constitutional amendment. Chavez found his way around -he was never going to be deterred by the results- and went for a second referendum. Would have lost on the rebound and he would have gone for a third try or perhaps would have devised a different formula to push through with his indefinite reelection.

    Referendum or not, Mr Chavez paved his way to dictatorship with access to multiple reelection. It was obvious then his intentions were to remain indefinitely in power. Please object if you thought differently. But no one mentions this anymore, not even the bright eager minds of the blandengue opposition that represent us.

    But hey, we Venezuelans are short-memoried. Always have been.

  13. I’m astounded that Juan seems not to be aware of (or simply dismisses) the concepts of electoral authoritarianism (Schedler) or competitive authoritarianism (Levitsky and Way), since they have been around for a decade, and give a theoretically sound base to understand the Venezuelan regime, not as a democracy but as a particular form of authoritarianism:
    Andreas Schedler, “Elections Without Democracy: The Menu of Manipulation”, Journal of Democracy , Volume 13, Number 2, April 2002, pp. 36-50; Steven Levitsky, Lucan Way, “The Rise of Competitive Authoritarianism”, Journal of Democracy, Volume 13, Number 2, April 2002, pp. 51-65; Andreas Schedler, ed. Electoral Authoritarianism: The Dynamics of Unfree Competition, Boulder, Lynne Rienner, 2006; S. Levitsky, L. Way, Competitive Authoritarianism: Hybrid Regimes After the Cold War, Cambridge, UK, Cambridge University Press, 2010.

  14. I’m gonna go through and read your article and comments later, but just to reply to the first comment, how about some positive non-violent civil disobiedience?

    Opposition supporters working for the government, grow some balls! Say it loud and proud! I work for Chavez but I don’t like him, and that’s ok cause my job is to get shit done, not kiss ass. I’m not trying to be insensitive here, of course if a few people did this it would be tragic but if thousands? tens of thousands?

  15. The article and most comments show there are multiple interpretations of the word democracy and their implications in Venezuela. Great exercise of freedom of thought but politically speaking that is bad news. To their favor, Chavistas have their twisted version of democracy agreed upon.

    • The most twisted version of democracy is where corporations run the economy and the government. The chavista version will be based fundamentally on local collectives and worker-owned production.

      • That was already tried in former Yugoslavia and the country end up broke. Bro, you should seriously read some history books. You know, the ones written by actual historians and not those that are mostly propagandistic nonsense…

        • It’s been tried in a lot of places that didn’t have the conditions or possibilities that Venezuela enjoys today, above all technology and energy.

          • You mean the petrodollars that are wasted in dead-end projects like gallineros verticales, sugar mills (remember CAAEZ?), embezzlement (the Cabellos, the Chacons, the Ramirez and the Chavez) and many other not quite revolutionary practices? Yeah, sure these bunch of crooks will succeed where the russians, germans, czechs, slokaks, chineses, yugoslvavians, vietnameses, koreans, cubans and many, many, many others have failed. Because, you know, these guys are real revolutionaries…

            • Human beings with technology, energy and resources can achieve anything. Broaden your imagination a little and don’t depend on history for your opinions of future developments.

              • So, I talk to you about the moral malaise and mediocrity that permeates the chavismo and you talk to me about the marvels of human ingenuity? Men, your childish naiveté is dangerously close to stupidity…

              • Your acknowledgement, yet dismissal, of the dismal failure of all past examples of putting your ideas into practice is willful ignorance, a sin far worse then mere stupid ignorance. You might as well jump off a building. Even though every time someone else has done it, they died, this time it will be different… trust me.

  16. Juan, I do not disagree with the point you’re making; I just don’t think that, in isolation, it is of much value. Your answer to the question “Is Venezuela a democracy” is “Yes, barely”. Not “yes, absolutely” or “no way, not a democracy!”. So I don’t find the answer insightful or interesting, or even constructive. A more interesting question should instead be, can/should Venezuelan democracy be improved, and how?

  17. So you ask: is Venezuela a democracy? But there’s a more fundamental question that you have to answer before: What is democracy? I guess our dilemma is shared with many other countries, such as Russia and Ukraine. Yes, there are elections, but nobody will call Venezuela or any of these countries paragons of democracy.

    So, what kind of democracy are we talking about? Venezuela is not a classic, direct democracy. Venezuela is definitely not a liberal democracy. I guess that the chavismo will try to persuade us that Venezuela is a participatory democracy, but Chavez himself admitted publicly that there is no such thing as comunes after 14 years of this so-called “participatory” democracy. So, no. Nobody is participating except the chavista elite and a few opportunists.

    I do not kid myself Chavez is nothing but a democratically elected tyrant. A tyrant in Aristoteles’ sense: “one who rules without law, looks to his own advantage rather than that of his subjects, and uses extreme and cruel tactics—against his own people as well as others”. Or a democratic dictator, if you will. And that’s not a new thing. Pericles, for example, was called just that.

    Chavez is not above the law. Chavez IS the law. But he’s cunning enought to stir popular desires and prejudices to get away with it. How else can you explain the latest CNE decision to allow the PSUV governor candidates to change his voting register data ex-tempore?

    In my opinion, Venezuela has always been a populist democracy. And the key factor is plain and simple demagoguery. That’s how AD got elected. That’s how Chavez got elected. The biggest issue with PJ and the new parties is that they are suited for a liberal democracy and not for a populist democracy. And the populist party par excellence (AD) lost its ways a long time ago and is useless nowadays.

    Just another little thing: you are using the expression “this begs the question” in the wrong way. It is a very common mistake, so let’s not make a big drama about it. But try to learn the right way to use it.

    • Vz has not always been a populist democracy, Barreda. One need only to recall, or read political history on the country, to realize that its democratic foundations have always been fragile and, let’s face it, half-assed (*). Furthermore, the 40-year period that begun in 1959 was, to some extent, nothing more than a poorly cobbled exercise in implementing democracy, when the very underpinnings — a political, social, educational and geographic infrastructure — were insufficient to serve the vast majority of the forced-to-vote electorate, most of which had long been poorly served by the First and Second Estates in previous centuries.

      (*) http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_Presidents_of_Venezuela

  18. JCN,

    Very much like your writing style (reminder: the hilarious Maiquetia story) and usually agree with your opinion. With this piece however, I believe you felt prey to the Chavez sirens that lulled you into a Kumbaya type trance, not unlike when people first voted for Chavez in 1998.

    Different commenters have already said everything why Venezuela is not a democracy, the best summary is probably that of Mr. Coronel.

    My take is that your examples citing Chile, the US and the UK are the exceptions to the rule. The US has made many mistakes along the way, but democracy was never threatened. Democratic “justice”, for the most part always prevailed.

    Is there corruption in the US? The answer is clearly yes, but if caught, there are consequences. Not so if you wear a red shirt in Venezuela. Would the Supreme Court’s ideology in the US be shaped during a long run of either party governing? No doubt, but it balances out over time. Has there been voter suppression, or attempts to buy votes for a pack of cigarettes or other dirty tricks? Yes, but hardly to the point of influencing the outcome of an election.

    Even during the highly controversial recount episode in Florida (Bush v. Gore), the survival of the democracy was never at stake.

    And therein lies the difference between a true and stable democracy and something based on Chavez lies, straight out of the Cuban handbook “How to destroy a democracy using democratic means”. Of course those “democratic” means are based on sleight of hand and deceit that the global opinion forming MSM buys, in their romanticism with the left and supporters of “brown” skin colored presidents vs. all the mantuano presidents that were elected before Chavez.

    And it seems like you also bought Hugo’s wolf in sheep clothing honeymoon, which really is nothing new, as he has always behaved in the same manner after an important election “win”, only to eventually “deepen” his revolution to new absurdities, when the international press is not looking, or maybe actually buys his never ending crap.

    No, Venezuela is by definition no longer a democracy, maybe it’s not yet a full fledged dictatorship. But it will get there, sooner, rather than later

  19. Is Venezuela a democracy? Depends on who you’re asking. In Rousseauian terms Venezuela is indeed a democracy because what the majority wants the majority gets. There aren’t many (or any) safeguards to prevent someone from abusing their popularity with the electorate (Indeed, the electorate has willingly removed most of these safeguards through referendums) However, democracy goes much deeper than simply getting a mandate and then running the country in any manner you see fit. There’s niceties like separation of powers and institutions which aren’t part of the mix in Venezuela. However, the regional consensus seems to be that if the majority voted for it then no one has a right to complain. The fallacy that most internationalist/socialist/hangers-on of the regime seem to trumpet is the ‘never in the history of Venezuela have there been so many elections’ line. Democracy goes way past the mere mechanics of voting. Anyone that doesn’t understand that probably has a deficient concept of a democracy.

    • “Is Venezuela a democracy? Depends on who you’re asking. In Rousseauian terms Venezuela is indeed a democracy because what the majority wants the majority gets.”

      I agree, but your argument presumes that one has to believe that it indeed was a majority. It’s something we will never know for sure or come to a conclusion here. Just because the oppo candidate says so doesn’t make it so. They have been caught cheating before, so why should we believe that this time everything was “clean”?

      The key to me is in the electoral registry, which has statistics attached to it that to me are simply not believable (nothing earth-shattering new here).

  20. Thanks for the comments, folks. I understand where you all are coming from. I think, ultimately, the disagreement is over semantics, not really over what is going on in Venezuela but in how we label it.

    I knew when I was writing this that it would tick off some (most?) of my readers, but what the heck, it’s my honest opinion.

    • Yes, of course it’s semantics. It’s no accident that the legal profession defines its terms, before presenting the crux of the matter. Perhaps that should be a consideration for economists. Hint, hint.

      Democracy is such an overused word to describe an ideal that is rarely, if ever, put into practice. It makes people happy to think that they have democracy in their midst, or that it is achievable. But they are fooling themselves, particularly in the case of Venezuela.

    • True, JCN, it is about semantics–it’s just that some on this Blog were not sure who was really talking–Mr. Grister, or Mr. Grifter….

  21. This is long, but it does come to a relevant point (IMO).

    Christian theologians have long had to answer this question: if salvation is possible only to those who understand and believe that they are redeemed from sin by the sacrifice of Jesus on the Cross – what about all those people who could never hear the Gospel? Those who lived in the Americas before Columbus, say. Are they excluded for reasons beyond their control? The answer is that God’s mercy is extended to them. Also to those in the Old World who were never preached to.

    But then what about people who did hear the Gospel, but only in some perfunctory way? Are they damned? Does God evaluate the preaching each person hears in life, and decide which counts as sufficient to provide a true choice to be saved or not? Would it be sufficient if the person once read the two summary paragraphs of an evangelical tract?

    The presence of democracy is also open to questions of effectuality. Nominal democracy exists if officeholders are chosen by the vote of the people. But that choice may not be effectual in practice.

    Would it be democracy if voters were presented with a ballot listing names of candidates about which they know nothing? (Except, perhaps, gender, ethnicity, or religion? It’s said that even today, in Chicago an Irish surname is worth 10% of the vote.)

    Would it be effectual democracy if voters who could choose to re-elect or replace an officeholder or party had no information about what that person had done in office?

    Would it be effectual democracy if the information available to voters is grossly imbalanced, with one side using all the powers of the state to distribute its messages, and also using those powers to stifle the opposition? To wit:

    * Side Alpha has the exclusive unlimited use of state-owned broadcast media.
    * Side Beta is has only tightly restricted use of private broadcast media.

    * Side Alpha has unlimited use of state funds to pay and assist its door-to-door canvassers.
    * Side Beta must rely on volunteer canvassers, who can’t even be given a free soda on a hot day.

    * Side Alpha’s message is part of the compulsory curriculum in all state schools, from kindergarten through college.
    * Side Beta – private schools are tightly restricted.

    * Side Alpha’s message is included in all sermons of all clergy of the state church.
    * Side Beta – dissenting churches are tightly restricted.

    Would it be effectual democracy if electoral regulators and police ignore flagrant lawbreaking by one side, while maximally punishing any minor or alleged violation by the opposition?

    At what point does nominal democracy become ineffectual?

    • Analogy to simplify the theology: Mr. G is having an eternal party and only inviting those that have convinced him that they will behave so as to not ruin the eternal party. Anyone that has not proven himself the day the invitations are sent out is simply not allowed in. The concept of “invitation only” for an *eternal* party implies that no one is included by “mercy”, let alone “default”.

      As to democracy, it means that, at the very least, the majority rules. In Venezuela, having the majority rule over who should be president does not imply that the majority rules in anything else. There are sufficient indications to the contrary; the majority do not rule the nation, therefore, the nation is not a democracy.

  22. I don’t know if it is a democracy or not. After all democracy literally means government of the people which can be interpreted as rule of the majority or even mob rule. That’s not the accepted definition though.

    What I can say is that in Venezuela there is a dictatorship because there is no division of powers and no rule of law. It became a dictatorship in June 2004 when the Asamblea Nacional illegally modified the organic law of the TSJ (Tribunal Supremo de Justicia) without the required 2/3 majority and the TSJ convalidated the illegal procedure. That move allowed Chavez to stack even more the TSJ and demonstrated that rule of law was dead and that all the powers were subservient to Chavez.

    If that was not enough, the imprisonment of judge Afiuni, the Habilitante that nullified the current Asamblea Nacional, and the stripping of powers of the Caracas Mayor and opposition governors are demonstrations that if any power does not bow to Chávez he has no problems neutralizing them through more illegal procedures.

    Democracy? really? Dictatorship. even if with majority approval.

  23. I have said it a thousand times:

    Venezuela is no longer a Republic. Not even the imperfect and parties-oriented Republic that it was.

    Venezuela is a democracy in that we get up and vote, and might even count the votes in a clean manner. But now, it is a Single-Party Democracy and that party is the PSUV. All the things, all the lawmaking leading to that act and after that act are rigged and rotten.

    • My country is a Democracy meaning that allegedly it uses the best system for electing political officials. Democracy is a method to preserve the freedom and independence of citizens. It is meaningless and without any purpose because there’s no Republic to speak of, and you have only those civil rights left that the government is inefficient or uninterested in stamping out methodically.

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