Venezuela: Chavez says time for criticism

In a cabinet meeting with his top ministers on October 20, Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez strongly criticised his political team for failing to show commitment to the participatory democratic model proposed by his government. Chavez urged them to undertake serious “self-criticism”.

It was the first cabinet meeting since the October 7 presidential elections, in which Chavez won a third presidential term with more than 55% of the vote.

During the televised meeting, Chavez made many criticisms of his party, the United Socialist Party of Venezuela (PSUV) ― especially with regards to building the country’s communes. These group together the local neighbourhood-based communal councils in a given region.

“Where are the communes?” Chavez asked newly appointed vice-president Nicolas Maduro.

He said: “In [socialist city] Belen, we keep giving houses to people, but you can’t see a commune anywhere. Not even the spirit of the commune, which right now is more important than the commune itself; a communal culture ... this is a matter for all of us, [the communes] are part of the soul of this project.”

Although the Law of the Communes was passed in 2010 and a ministry of the communes established, many of the local self-government bodies have not made it past the initial stages of registration.

During the meeting, Chavez suggested that one of the problems impeding the building of communes was to have made a ministry responsible for their management, and suggested eliminating the government body.

“We have assumed that the problem of the communes is a matter for a ministry, and that is a huge error, we cannot make this error any more, Nicolas,” he said.

The head of state also spoke about what he called “a lack of organisation and cooperation” amongst the country’s public media stations. Chavez said that it was necessary to create a more unified system to group together progressive media.

“We don’t have a national network for public media,” Chavez said, “that’s why we should create it, and it should be connected to other networks, such as the community media and international networks”.

He also spoke critically about the content of public media and charged state channels with excluding grassroots voices.

“Sometimes I am watching television and I think, good Lord, is this the most important thing that there is at the moment? ... A person who has nothing to say to the country? Why don’t we do programs with the workers, with self-criticism? It is necessary, that is what nourishes us; we should not be afraid of self-criticism!”

The meeting comes just a week after the socialist president reshuffled his cabinet. Former vice-president Elias Jaua was replaced by foreign minister Nicolas Maduro and the minister of communes stepped down to stand in the state of Lara in the country’s upcoming regional elections.

Chavez went to the presidential poll with a platform for the next six years aimed at deepening and radicalising its socialist project. Achieving this will require “self-criticism”.

Chavez spoke at length about the Venezuelan transition to socialism, saying the path to the Bolivarian model is inseparable from deepening the country’s democratic system in “every sphere”.

He said this transition “must be planned and debated at each step of the way”, but added this effort must include a profound transformation of the country’s productive model, which should be democratised.

Chavez said this democratisation of the nation’s economic system would be a “determining” factor in the country’s path to socialism.

Chavez also pledged that his government would try to improve efficiency during its next term and ensure that it delivered on promises, as well as increase auditing on social projects. “We need to step up our level of interaction, communication and coordination,” he said.

[Reprinted from Venezuela Analysis.]