During last Sunday's radio show President Chavez blazed the trail on two fronts, military and accountability. The first grabbed world attention because of the "if you want peace, prepare for war" remark taken out of context that provided plenty of ammunition for Brazilian, Colombian, Spanish and US opponents, along with the universal condemnation of Venezuela's opposition.
The other and perhaps more important topic raised by the President was ministerial and government incompetence.
Indicating what he has to put up with, Chavez told viewers that he wanted information on a factory that workers had taken over after the owner threw in the towel. It had been aired on a TV economic talk show but it was only the next day that his aides handed him the relevant information. Immediately Chavez ordered the expropriation of the company which sells hardware articles in Cagua (Aragua).
The company has been under worker control since June 2006 when the owners abandoned ship due to economic problems.
Cooperative president, Jose Leon said workers sought State aid and approval complying with presenting a project, economic analysis, attending socio-political and ideological workshops but nothing happened. There are currently 60 staff working without credit or backing from the banks. After Chavez showed interest in the experience last Sunday, officials from the Science, Technology & Intermediate Industries Ministry visited the company to draw up a report.
It would appear that the President wants to shake things up after detecting an increase in incompetence not just in ministries and public administration but also in the United Socialist Party of Venezuela (PSUV). From what I've been able to ascertain from listening to many activists is that they are happy with the shake-up, saying it was high time.
With the PSUV congress one week away, one of the key issues will be discipline and leadership ... especially of members working in flagship programs and key ministries. People do not want to see the congress become a platform for egotistic aspirations in view of the elections. What they want to see coming out of the Congress are solutions to difficulties and a clear definition of 21st Century Socialism that can be seen and felt by all Venezuelans.
There has also been criticism of President Chavez himself for retaining ministers for their unreserved loyalty, despite their obvious incompetence, prickliness towards criticism, media over-exposure, and penchant for adulation.
The scolding of two vice ministers for incompetence in planning, and his own aides for failing to provide information, has opened a wider debate among activists and grassroots sectors who will be watching closely the outcome of a congress which expected to provide a keener, better defined party with a program and platform ... a party that has learned the lesson from other Socialist experiences.
Patrick J. O'Donoghue