In the Municipality of Libertador, where the capital city of Mérida state, Venezuela, is located, the Communist Party of Venezuela (PCV) and the United Socialist Party of Venezuela (PSUV) are running separate candidates for mayor in this Sunday's local elections. This represents an ideological clash within the Patriotic Alliance, a coalition of leftist parties that recognize President Hugo Chávez as the leader of Venezuela's Bolivarian Revolution. It could lead to a divided Chavista vote, allowing the most prominent of several opposition candidates, University of the Andes Rector Lester Rodríguez, to win. The PSUV candidate is the incumbent mayor, Carlos León. As this defining election for the future path of the revolution draws near, Venezuelanalysis.com interviewed Fredys Terán, the Communist Party candidate for mayor of the Municipality of Libertador.
Fredys Terán, candidate for mayor of the Municipality of Libertador, what political program do you propose for the municipality once you are elected?
Our principal objective is to convert this into a socialist municipality. To begin to move toward this we have, as a tactic, a municipal constituent assembly. This will not be convened by us; it will be convened by the people and communities of the municipality themselves, so that it has an original character. It shall make a reality out of Article 5 of the national constitution, which emphasizes that sovereignty rests non-transferably in the people.
The people must definitively understand that they have the power, independently of whether there is a mayor or a governor!
But, we have these institutions, like the Mayor's Office and the Municipal Legislative Council, which are structures of the representative democracy of the Fourth Republic. We have to break away from these structures. And when I say this I am not referring to the buildings. I am not going to arrive with a giant machine and knock down the buildings. We are going to tumble, to overthrow the bureaucratic structure that is there in representative democracy. Together with the constituent assembly, we propose the creation of new spaces of participation.
Beyond this, our program has transversal axes, such as the undying defense of the environment, because this city and this state should be defended environmentally above all else.
Another proposal is, having the profile of a socialist municipality, that collective rights be prioritized above individual rights.
For example, with regard to the transportation issue, surely some people will appeal to the constitutional right to free transit, and say this is an individual right. But, there is a collective right, which is to be able to move about. What are we doing, sitting in our vehicles for an hour in traffic? The individual right to free transit is not fulfilled.
So, by prioritizing collective rights over individual rights, which is a characteristic of socialism, we are going to begin to shape this socialist municipality, and the citizens and the community of Mérida will understand the real difference between a socialist city and a capitalist city.
What does your candidacy mean for the revolutionary movement in Mérida and in the rest of the country?
Well, look, I am a militant of the Communist Party of Venezuela, the party that nominated me, which has been promoting scientific socialism and opposing imperialism in this country for 77 years.
So, what does it mean for the revolutionary process in which we are living? A bolstering and a radicalization. Our proposal is radically different from the proposals of the current mayor, who calls himself socialist and a militant of the [United Socialist Party of Venezuela] PSUV, and of course from the proposals made by the opposition candidates.
In perfect consonance with what the President of the Republic proposes, we propose a socialist movement, and this has to be radical in form. We are not going to achieve this with small reforms. And I am sure that the majority of the population of this municipality and this state is in agreement with us in this proposition.
What are some specific examples of what defines the difference between you and the PSUV candidate?
There is a radical difference. He [the PSUV candidate] has been in office for four years and he has not done anything to build a socialist municipality.
Sure, they hosted the bull fights, the parties, the drunken festivities. But here nobody perceives a substantial difference between, for example, the previous mayor, the last mayor of the Fourth Republic, and this first mayor of the Fifth Republic [Carlos León, the incumbent who is running on the PSUV ticket for re-election].
Nobody perceives a difference, because there is none. The treatment of workers, even the workers in his own administration, the housing issue, and other direct responsibilities of the mayor, like the problem of garbage disposal, still have not been solved.
We have the interlacing policy of environmental protection, which we think is going to make the fundamental difference, because all the problems are connected to this.
For example, if we had proposed an alliance between my candidacy and his candidacy, it would have been impossible to form a program because Carlos León was not going to undertake this program that we have. He did not take it on in these four years and he is not going to take it on in the next for years.
Carlos León's proposals are not different in any way from those of Lester [Rodríguez, the opposition candidate for mayor], or those of any other opposition candidate. In no way do they point toward a socialist municipality. He does not even mention it, he does not dare to say it, not even in his most demagogic plan.
Our program is radically different from the program of the other Chavista candidate, who I believe embodies nothing of Chávez.
How do you propose to solve the problem of garbage disposal?
Look, to solve the problem of garbage, and the problem of transportation, and the majority of the problems, we plan to strengthen the Association [of the five most populated municipalities in the center of the state of Mérida] because this is not just our problem. Pickup the garbage and go and dump it in the Municipality of Sucre, no way, this should be an issue for the Association: Sucre, Campo Elías, Mérida, Santos Marquina, and, in the case of garbage, Rangel has been added.
In perfect consonance with the undying defense of the environment, we have a plan to carry out, in conjunction with the national and regional governments, an environmental education campaign.
Because, as long as we have this absurd mentality, of each person in their home, disposing of solid waste by throwing it in the street without worrying if it pollutes or if it causes a problem for their own neighbor, we are not going to solve this problem.
This is everybody's problem. It is not a problem for one super-mayor. I do not aspire to be a super-mayor. We propose that this municipal administration assume organized popular power. We are going to make ourselves means, instruments. And the solutions to these problems are going to come from the organized communities, not a super-mayor.
Let's take hold of the constitution! Let us not do what all mayors have done, which is sequester the local planning council and attempt to sequester the community councils. Let us do the opposite; let us empower these spaces of participation and create others, together with the people, to make participative democracy a reality, and erase representative democracy from the map!
Your proposals are very similar to those of other PSUV candidates for mayor in other municipalities. Do you think the others are going to be able to achieve their goals, even though the are part of the PSUV?
Yes, yes, yes, of course! For example, there is the case of Pedro Álvarez in Campo Elías. Yes, they are perfectly coincident.
This question is about the composition of forces within the PSUV. We must recognize that within the PSUV, there is what we have called the endogenous right wing, which wants to take control of the PSUV and does not have anything to do with President Chávez's thinking, nor with the thinking of our allies within the PSUV. Then, there are people on the Left, advanced people, revolutionary people.
If, within the PSUV, the endogenous right wing imposes itself, they will not be able to achieve their goals. If, within the PSUV, the left wing imposes itself, they will be able to achieve their goals. In this idea, we coincide with the other PSUV candidates for mayor, and they coincide with us, because there is no other way.
We must radicalize, and in this I coincide perfectly with Pedro Ávarez in Campo Elías, who comes from the ranks of the Communist Youth. We plan to strengthen the Association of municipalities. We also hope that [the PSUV candidate José] Otalora wins in [the municipality of] Santos Marquina.
And yes, I have full confidence in the structures of the PSUV to make these changes.
What is your vision for the Patriotic Alliance [an alliance of leftist, pro-Chávez parties dominated by the PSUV] after these elections?
For us, the world does not end in December. To the contrary, this is just one step. All revolutionaries understand what Comrade Lenin said, that we must take advantage of elections in order to increase people's political capacity and critique.
So, we hope to shore up the Patriotic Alliance after the elections, independently of the results. The president will always count on the Communist Party, the president can always count on the communists.
We also hope that, following the elections, the president radicalizes the proposal, the ideology and political formation of the [PSUV] militants.
We will continue believing in the future of this country.
A month ago more or less, President Chávez called the Communist Party traitors. Do you still call yourselves Chavistas?
Look, the president himself rectified everything he said in Trujillo two months ago. In Zulia, he spoke wonders of the Communist Party.
I remember that I responded immediately after what the president said in Trujillo. I remember that I responded by citing Commander Fidel Castro, who says that "one can be socialist without being communist, but one cannot be socialist and also be anti-communist."
This was a very particular situation, the president felt upset because the PSUV candidate is not winning the governor's race in Trujillo, the candidate supported by the Communist Party and PPT [Patria Para Todos] was. So, this surely upset the president. And since then, he has said on several occasions that, to the contrary, he can count on the Communist Party, that he recognizes the strength of all communists as revolutionaries.
So I responded to him immediately afterward, and I did not believe that the president was manifesting in that moment an anti-communist attitude, nor anti-Communist Party, to differentiate the political ideology from the political instrument that is the Communist Party.
And, well, the subsequent events have shown that it is effectively like this: President Chávez can count on the Communist Party, and the Communist Party can count on President Chávez.
What is the perspective of the working class in Mérida on this election?
The Communist Party is the party of the workers. Socialism, and the revolutionary process, must be the workers' process. We, above all else, defend this, fight for this, advocate this.
But, class conscience is required, and the workers must have this class consciousness. It is sad to see a worker thinking like a petit bourgeois. We understand that throughout the historical process we have lived, mostly during the forty years of the Fourth Republic, the workers' minds were very poisoned.
They were made to believe that one could live within a capitalist and neo-liberal system, grow as a human, as a being, as a man or woman.
Now, in the past ten years, our workers have understood more and more that definitely the solution is socialism, and that they should be the first to defend socialism.
Is your vision similar to the one of Mayor Julio Chávez of the Municipality of Torres, in the state of Lara, who, along with the community, organized a constituent assembly and transferred power to the community councils?
Yes, yes. We recognize that the original idea came from there. But, they let themselves fall into a trap and be deceived. That is why I say that the Law on the Municipal System does not help us at all to do this type of thing. We must take hold of the constitution, which lays the foundations of participatory democracy.
We are timid. We are going to leave behind this timidity and we are going to take power. Nobody is going to give us power. The institutions of the Fourth Republic are not going to give us power. We are going to advance this taking of power from below.
I say, we have control of the government, but we do not in fact have the power. Having control of the government and some institutions has not allowed us, for example, to solve the problems inherited from the Fourth Republic in education, health care, and economic sectors of the country. We have not definitively taken power.
The best thing that has happened to us in these years since the president was elected is the constituent process [of writing a new national constitution] in 1999-2000, and later the constitutional reform that was proposed last year, which wrongfully, in my opinion, an important part of the people rejected.
But, self-critically, we have to recognize that we did not know how to articulate the proposed reforms, we did not bring them with us and circulate them, and neither did we have the political instruments to organize and win the reform.