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Andres Izarra

Mayors and governors elect joined ministers, the upper echelon of the Venezuelan military and President Chávez this weekend in a meeting designed to articulate a new stage in the “Bolívarian revolution.” The meeting, entitled “Bolívarian Revolution: New Stage, New Strategic Map”, was closed to the press, but Minister of Information Andrés Izarra has since held a series of press conferences outlining ideas discussed during the forum.

According to Izarra, participants spent a majority of the time divided up into working groups where they addressed a series of issues covering communications, corruption, poverty, popular participation, the social economy, civil-military alliance, the private sector, and international relations, among others. But by far the most important themes appeared to be the fight against corruption and the alleviation of poverty. Attempts at combating corruption centered around increased vigilance and increased citizen participation in government. Izarra announced the proposed creation of an anti-corruption task force aimed at ridding the state of graft, and the proposed increase of citizen participation in the country’s budgets.

Institutional Changes

“One of the objectives of the discussion tables,” noted Izarra, “was the formation of a social structure to permit participation of society in the transformation of the country.”

Such a social structure would be based on the further democratization of communication and popular participation. According to Izarra, proposals for the democratisation ofcommunication include the establishment of popular communication centers that would “bring communication technologies to every corner of the country.” The creation of an audiovisual industry in Venezuela would be another important element in a communication politics aimed at the further democratization of information, added Izarra.

Popular power was also on the agenda, leading to discussions on how to accelerate the incorporation of citizens into the decision-making process. With near complete control over local government, Chavistas in attendance were charged with accelerating and improving the implementation of participatory budgets.

The fight against poverty was linked to popular participation through recommendations to transform existing electoral structures into more long-term social infrastructure. Electoral Battle Units (UBEs) that campaigned relentlessly for Chávez, leading up to the referendum would be converted into Endogenous Battle Units (still UBEs) dedicated to fighting poverty.

“Popular participation is the foundation of this revolution,” noted Chávez, speaking to participants. “Our failure to hold primaries for candidates in these past elections means we now have a debt to the constitution and to the Venezuelan people,” he noted. To remedy that failure the President vowed that from now on there would be primaries for all electoral contests, including the 2006 Presidential elections. In a press conference this afternoon, Izarra announced that all participants in the forum are expected to return with concrete strategies to achieve discussed changes by next month. Ministers, mayors, and governors will present their proposals to the President between the 1st and the 16th of December, at which point they will be combined and summarized to be presented to the Venezuelan people early in the New Year.

Alo Presidente

One change to come out of the meetings effective immediately is the temporary suspension of Chávez’ weekly television address “Alo Presidente”. According to Izarra, the program will be off the air until further notice while a new format for the show is developed. He was quick to point out, however, that there is no question that the show will be back on air shortly.