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13 Oct, 2010 21:17

Venezuela’s poor awakened by revolutionary process

Democracy 101, Venezuela style: There is a people’s revolution underway. What is indisputable is that it never would have happened without President Hugo Chavez coming to power.

Social reforms prioritized the country's poor majority and activated participatory democracy in this country; a system which invites the poor not just to vote, but to get involved in the political process itself. Supporters of this process or the President are known simply and perhaps more vaguely as Chavistas.

In the wealthy neighborhoods it is called communism.

But in the slums, it has a very different meaning.

Far away from the bright lights of the city, the fancy hotels and the rich neighborhoods is the La Vega barrio. It's one of hundreds of barrios in this country. The concepts here are driven by the Bolivarian Revolution; it was introduced to them by Chavez. Participatory democracy happens here.

In La Vega, the community leader isn't Chavez, its Freddy Mendoza.

Mendoza told RT “La Vega is a parish with more than 150,000 inhabitants. This is a barrio that belongs to the La Vega parish. Here, during more than 35 years we’ve been fighting, achieving improvements to our condition of living. It would encompass culture, socio-productive projects, entertainment, leisure activities, and multiple use rooms. That’s why we give it the name integral.”

Mendoza is the guidance for the community’s decisions. The school teachers and bank tellers and the unemployed are the decisions makers. Regardless of whom you are or what you do for a living, everyone has an equal say in how their community is governed.

Natalia, a member of the community council said “It doesn’t matter if it’s the middle of the night or raining, whatever time it is, the communal council is present and available for all the neighbors of the Carretera Negra, for cultural activities, for a sickness, for whatever is needed.”

Mendoza said La Vega is not receiving much money from the government, but that doesn't mean much. If you walk into anyone’s house here you will see a picture of the President. It's not what he represents; it's about what he symbolizes.

Nilson, a resident of La Vega said, “Chavez, as a human, he may make mistakes, but as a people, as a person, he cares for the other people, people who is around him, the poor people.”

And what he symbolizes is a people first agenda.

The food at this government super market is heavily subsided compared to regular supermarkets. Cheap food is also accompanied by cheap resources.

The nationalization of the country's oil supply has given Venezuelans cheaper gas than water.

Even transportation. It's truly a spectacular view for the 2,000 residents of the Saint Augustine barrio who travel the route daily from the top of the hill down into the city on these cable carts. It's yet another element of the Chavez experiment. It's free to ride and it has helped the poor tremendously in Caracas.

Back in La Vega, the people describe how the revolutionary process has given them new opportunities.

And as we were filming the benefits, some of them quickly became suspicious of our presence.

One woman approached RT angrily and said “Well, the thing is that we don’t know if you are filming here because you guys are from CIA and then you will send it to them there, at the North American Empire.”

As RT tried to describe how the government projects are helping the people, some of them believe, because we were here from the United States, we were running propaganda about their President to show him in a bad light.

RT was in the middle of describing how those projects have benefited the poor. However, there is a long historical legacy of mistrust of the United States in Venezuela.