Gray Panthers of San Francisco
March, 2006 Newsletter

"Ahora es de Todos"

Now is for Everyone


Venezuelans have a new sense of excitement and national pride as unique social missions and participatory democracy give life to the motto “ahora es de todos—now Venezuela is for all.” With a poverty level of about 70%, the purpose of profits from the state-owned oil company has changed. They now fund missions which give many, for the first time, access to education, housing, health services and job training.

President Chavez’s model blends capitalist and socialist ideas in a new and unparalleled way—a model outspokenly anti-imperialist and opposed to the neoliberal policies of the “Washington Consensus,” yet based on direct popular participation in democratic decision making at the local level.

A Chilean poll found that more Venezuelans consider their country “totally democratic” than any other Latin American nation. After his 1998 election, President Chavez called a Constituent Assembly to write a new constitution. Citizens around the country corresponded with the Assembly about what should be in it. When the Assembly finished, the proposed constitution was approved by voters, published in a tiny book and sold on the streets, so many citizens carry one in their pocket and discuss it with others.

The ongoing participation of women and the poor is a key element of the struggle to create a society with strong foundations in the democratic process. The government provides training and resources that empower people to create models that meet their community’s needs.

For Venezuelans, it is important that this “processo” come from within the people, not be imposed from outside. Thus they ask that we in the U.S. tell the Bush administration to keep “hands off Venezuela.” They want the chance to make their own mistakes as they experiment with and create a societal model that fits their own needs. Is this not real democracy?

Submitted by a GP member who recently returned from the 2006 World Social Forum in Caracas.

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