Building grassroots democracy in Venezuela

May 10, 2008

A May 8 meeting in Wollongong heard an eyewitness account of the political struggle within Venezuela from Carlos Sierra, a political leader in the radical Venezuelan youth organisation Frente Francisco de Miranda. The meeting was part of Sierra's Resistance-organised tour which also took him to Newcastle and Sydney Universities.

The talk focused on the role of young people in building grassroots democracy in Venezuela, and their efforts to defend it against the sabotage and violence of the right-wing opposition.

Sierra explained the massive support for and involvement in the revolution, and detailed the various social programs that have been established to raise living conditions. He also spoke about the new grassroots democratic institutions allow local communities to play a direct role in government decision-making.

"The communal councils represent the permanent use of people power. Instead of exercising democracy for two seconds every few years when you vote, in Venezuela we are doing it daily. We are turning our neighbourhoods into the state."

At the meeting short videos were shown, highlighting the tactics of the right-wing opposition and showing their attempts to create turmoil within Venezuela through systematic sabotage of public infrastructure and use of violence at rallies.

"People in Venezuela are vigilant and take precautions against these tactics. The opposition are trying to create dissatisfaction with the government, but the majority knows who is behind it", Sierra said.

When questioned about the political repercussions of the failed 2007 referendum, which aimed to strengthen popular power in order to take the revolution much further forward, Sierra said "it really awakened us to our mistakes. The right wing did a very good job of lying, and we did not do enough to communicate with people. We have learned from this and will make sure we are successful next time."

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