On Wednesday, Venezuelan President Hugo Chávez convened state governors, city mayors, and legislators from the United Socialist Party of Venezuela (PSUV) to discuss the next stage in the construction of “21st Century Socialism,” following two important electoral victories for Chávez and his supporters over the past four months.
Chávez urged governors and mayors to promote debate and “the battle of ideas” in their workplaces so that “a new vision and new values are born,” and to counter the “media war” waged by the opposition-aligned private media against the government’s policies.
“Each governorship and mayoralty should truly become a school of socialist theory and practice,” said Chávez, rallying the officials not to be set back by the tightening of local budgets amidst the world economic downturn. “What a marvelous time to be a mayor! The most important problem of a mayor is not a shortage of resources for this or that project. If you let yourselves get trapped in this, you are already lost,” he said.
Throughout the day, PSUV elected officials divided into working groups organized by region to fix legislative and policy priorities for the coming months and years.
Among the topics discussed was the election of constituent assemblies to re-write state and municipal constitutions to reflect the principles enshrined in the national Constitution, which was written by an elected assembly and approved by popular vote during the first year of Chávez’s presidency in 1999.
This process has already been carried out in the Torres Municipality, where local residents and associations organized a constituent assembly to re-write the municipal constitution in 2004, with the leadership and support of former Mayor Julio Chávez, who is one of the founders of the communal councils in Venezuela. The new constitution empowers a legislative body made up of community councils to control the local budget and direct local development.
“The issue is a new constitutional doctrine and we are in the vanguard in the region,” said Chávez. He pointed out that since Venezuela re-wrote its constitution ten years ago, Ecuador and Bolivia have also ratified new constitutions based on similar principles, and last week Honduran President Manuel Zelaya proposed a referendum to consult Hondurans about whether to convoke a constitutional assembly.
Chávez also announced that he has created a Socialist Corporation of Public Services that will be managed by the Ministry of Public Works and Housing. He called on governors and mayors to create mixed state enterprises together with the national government to provide public services to their jurisdictions.
“Let’s create mixed enterprises in all the states, and even alliances among multiple states,” said the president.
During the summit, Cojedes state officials signed a document of intent with Public Works and Housing Minister Diosdado Cabello to create a joint enterprise to administer the mining of granite and graphite in Cojedes state.
Since PSUV governors and mayors prevailed in more than two thirds of Venezuela’s states and municipalities in elections last November, and voters approved the elimination of term limits on elected offices including the presidency in February, Chávez has called for a radicalization of the “Bolivarian Revolution,” which has laid the foundations of participatory democracy in Venezuela since Chávez was elected in 1998.
On Wednesday, Chávez said his government has committed errors that must be overcome. He recommended that every official read the book Beyond Capital by István Mészáros. Book in hand, he read a passage that said, “The path to socialism is filled with misunderstandings, errors, setbacks, and sacrifices, but it is the path, the only path.”
“In this moment there are contradictions, because we still have a state with bourgeois components, with a bourgeois culture, but we are amidst a process of transformation, becoming a revolutionary state at the service of the people,” said Chávez.
The president then compared Venezuela to its ally, Cuba, saying the revolution led by former President Fidel Castro on the island has advanced beyond the point no return. In contrast, “we are far from the point of no return . . . someday our revolution should reach the level of maturity [of the Cubans],” said Chávez.
This article was published by Venezuelanalysis under a Creative Commons license on 29 March 2009.