Monday, September 10, 2007
¡Saludos desde Caracas! I have finally decided to start a Blog as part of a project I am working on for a 4th book, yes, with this very name, "Postcards from the Revolution" or "Postales de la revolución" en español. Since I am completely new to this, I am open to any help and suggestions regarding posting images and graphics to the Blog, and of course, things you would like to hear about progress and conflicts within the Bolivarian Revolution in Venezuela. I am now embarking on my third year living in Caracas full time, writing for several local papers and running two radio programs. Soon I'll have a television show, "El Código" on Canal de Noticias, a new private station in Venezuela. These days things are focused on President Chávez's proposed reforms to the 1999 Constitucion. He's proposed significant changes to 33 articles that will alter the type of economy in the nation, making it more beneficial to the people in an equitable and humane way, and focusing on the creation of new "socialist companies", "social production companies", the prohibition of monopolies and the diversification of State companies so there will be more worker control and local investment. The proposed reforms will also restructure the geopolitical and territorial nature of the country by creating new federal districts, including the capitol of Caracas, which will no longer be divided in 5 municipalities and different states but will be one united entity. The territorial changes, titled the new "geometry of power", will also allow the Executive to create special zones in Venezuela's vast maritime region, which reaches as far as Puerto Rico. Within this concept, new provinces may be created, with Vice-Presidents to oversee them, which has been cause to question the expansion of Executive power in these proposed reforms. Of course the biggest news has been the proposed elimination of presidential terms, and the allowance of "immediate reelection" once the now proposed 7-year presidential term ends. However, this will still be subject to nomination of candidates and of course, elections!
I'm somewhat opposed to one of the reforms which will reduce the workday to just 6 hours. Personally, I think people need to work more. There is a lot to do in this world. However, the way work is viewed needs to change so that people feel that what they do contributes to the construction of a better world. In that sense, I agree with the reform, because the article, Number 90, also specifies that workers should allot more time (in their free time) to educating themselves, socializing in healthy ways, contributing to their communities, engaging in volunteer work and spending more time with family.
My favorite reform is to Article 67, which will now prohibit the foreign funding of organizations, groups, political parties and campaigns in Venezuela. This is a direct result of four years of investigation, public denunciation, hundreds of articles and two books written on the subject, and frankly, I'm quite pleased with the outcome. It's hard to complain about having one's hard work manifested in a constitutional reform.
The best part about this process of constitutional reform in revolutionary Venezuela is the public debate. Everyone is engaged and participating, everywhere. It's hard to imagine such a scenario in a nation like the United States, for example, where the constitution was written by 50 white men, rich landowners, who never consulted with anyone, claimed Afro-Americans as 3/4 of a person and excluded women, and it has never been reformed!! The US Constitution has only been slightly amended. But the process in Venezuela is quite extraordinary. Remember, this is a constitution that was written by the people, for the people, in an incredibly participatory way, and then voted on in a national referendum in 1999, with more than 70% acceptance. The process of reform appears to be equally, if not more, participatory. Even today, for example, the National Assembly (Congress) officially dialogued with representatives from opposition parties (no longer represented in the legislature because they boycotted the last elections in 2005) about their concerns regarding the proposed reforms. Since the President proposed the reforms to the Constitution, he initiated the process, and therefore can determine how the vote will be structured (voting together for all 33 articles or separately; he chose together as one "block"). However, the rest remains in the hands of the National Assembly, which has to have 3 debates to determine whether or not the President's proposal will be approved or changes will be made. So far, changes have already been made to certain articles proposed by the President, and even changes to other articles left out of his proposal, such as reducing voting age to 16 and including more explicit rights and recognition for Afro-Venezuelans. After the National Assembly approves their version of the reform, it will go to a national referendum vote, currently scheduled for December 9, 2007; this year.
In future posts, I'll discuss more in depth certain proposals that Chávez has made, but overall, things are in flux - a heated debate is in session nationwide, and the results are unpredictable as of now. Otherwise, Caracas has been quite rainy in the afternoons. The mornings and middays are good for jogging and running errands, because once the rain comes, traffic is unbearable and what could take an hour in the morning takes 3 hours at 5pm. School will be back in session next week, which will bring the city back into full capacity. For now, I am still enjoying some quiet mornings (I have two schools out back of my building).
Until the next post, signing off from the port of South America, and loving it.