Keynote Speech Marking the Ratification of President Hugo Chávez Frías

Address by Historian Margarita López Maya to representatives of the Venezuelan State on the occasion of the ratification Hugo Chávez Frías as president of the Bolivarian Republic of Venezuela, following the referendum held on Sunday, 15 August 2004.

Caracas, Friday, 27 August 2004

We have been summoned here to the emblematic headquarters of the representatives of sovereignty of the people, with the aim of expressing the joy that we, the men and women of Venezuela, must all certainly feel for the happy ending of the presidential recall, the result of which has been the ratification of the President of the Republic in his post. For it is a great honor and responsibility to address you, the public authorities and the public itself, in whose hands lies the sovereignty of this nation.

Margarita López Maya giving the keynote speech during the ceremony ratifying President Chavez as Venezuela’s President, following the August 15 recall referendum.
Credit: MinCI

I have accepted this invitation, as I have, over the last the years, repeatedly accepted to participate in public events, to offer my fellow citizens my humble service as a researcher and as an analyst of the recent and contemporary sociopolitical process taking place. Today, when I realize that we may be on the threshold of a new phase of the political struggle in Venezuela, I cannot do otherwise. However, I wish to confess my hope that this new phase, which I believe is being born – and I exhort all of you to make every effort to make this a possibility – will also allow me to return soon to the archives, libraries and the silent tranquility of my study, which are the most private places where I should be, but which I have left on a temporary basis to help in the reconstruction of the society and of the Republic.

On 15 August 2004, the presidential recall election was held in holy peace. Early that morning, the cities throughout this country woke up with the intention of making history. For those 24 hours, we the men and women of Venezuela were the center of attention of every other nation on Earth. The international media followed the unfolding of this event hour after hour. The people of this country flooded to the polls, thereby sending a very clear political message that we had accepted the challenge of democratically measuring ourselves between two opinions, and that the state-run institution of the national Electoral Council would ensure us that the process would be transparent. Each one of us spent an average of seven hours waiting in line, when the logistics planned for the event could no longer cope. In the elections held in July 2000, six million six hundred thousand Venezuelans turned out to vote. On 15 August d 2004, almost ten million people did so. This is to say, more than three million voters more, who had to use the same voting centers. In the midst of this inconvenience, the will of the people remained unchanged and serene. We had made up our minds to vote, and we were not going to leave without fulfilling that objective.

The first official bulletin of 16 August showed a clear result and an irreversible trend. This trend was backed up shortly afterwards by all the international observers. The “NO” option triumphed in a ratio of almost 60 to 40, meaning that the people had spoken very clearly: they wanted the President to complete his constitutional term.

With the culmination of the recall process and the result it produced, Venezuelan society now has the invaluable opportunity of overcoming this phase of the hegemonic struggle, which has been waged since the end of 2001, and which has been marked by the implementation, by the opposition forces, of insurrectionary strategies designed to snatch power. I believe that we are at the door leading to a path of greater democracy that will enable us to develop our political activity. Thanks to this «contact with the reality» which characterizes the relationship between the forces existing within our society, we now have the opportunity to choose a path enabling us to recognize our political foes as equals, with respect and tolerance for their differences, and with the will to find the points we all have in common so that we may be able to build consensus with them, to identify the unyielding points of our differences, to agree, with regard to those unyielding points, the democratic measures that must be taken in order to address them. The absence of (the majority of) the representatives of the opposition forces at the headquarters of the National Assembly is symptomatic of the difficulties their leaders are facing in opening that door and taking that path. However, we have not lost hope that, for better or for worse –voluntarily or by force – some of them will eventually take that path. We the men and women of Venezuela wish to return to more normal times, to an every-day life that is less fraught with anxiety. Our politicians will do well in making every effort to help ensure that our demand is fulfilled in this regard.

With these lines, I wish to invite you to join me in reflecting on the reason for this political confrontation which we are going through and and which we so anxiously seek to overcome. In the first part of my statement, I will outline the main elements leading up to the overflowing of the banks of the former political regime and to the foundering of representative democracy, thereby resulting in the proposal of a participatory democracy as an alternative project with alternative actors, as well. I believe that, since the elections of 1998, when this alternative won over the proposal that prevailed during the previous decade and that was more in line with neoliberalism and with global hegemonic power, Venezuela has been showing the signs of a society torn between two country visions, two visions and two aspiring leaderships which, to date, are perceived as exclusive in their own way. The hegemonic struggle was therefore depicted in the Manichaean terms of all or nothing. Toward the end of 2001, the proposed political confrontation would inevitably lead to a dead-end, given equal degree of strength that both projects seemed to have. Thus began an «insurrectionary» phase in the hegemonic dispute in Venezuela, a phase that, with the result of the referendum, has the chance of being closed in order to facilitate the healing of the wounds which it has caused. In the second part of my statement, I wish to expound on some of the short-, medium- and long-term challenges which I believe we have to deal with as a society if we are to survive as such in the twenty-first century and to shape a better destiny for our sons and daughters, who are the citizens that will reap the fruits that we are currently sowing.

The Hegemonic Struggle and Its Insurrectionary Phase

A group of citizens who signed a public document that was drafted during the days of the coup d’état in 2002, and that was entitled “A dialogue for social inclusion and for the strengthening of democracy “, affirmed that, since the El Amparo massacre in 1988 and the Caracazo riots in 1989, Venezuelan society had been developing a sociopolitical process which was partially reactionary and partially organic and which recognized the need for a profound change to greater social justice and inclusion through the strengthening of democracy.

We declared that this longing had existed prior to the sociopolitical process that, in 1988, took Mr. Chávez and the alliance supporting him to power and that, regardless of what his fate would be, the process would live on after him.

We held that perception because we shared the belief that, while the problems affecting Venezuelan society were long-standing, some of them as old as the formation of the society itself. We also perceived that we had in our possession, the positive dividends derivedfrom our social development over time, particularly since the institution of democracy in 1958. We were convinced, and I am still convinced, that, with that negative and positive baggage, we had to move ahead in that unprecedented phase which we were going through. In our debates, we recognized that some of our most serious weaknesses stemmed from our colonial past, a past blighted by inequality and injustice in all the areas of life in society, that the republic had failed to eradicate in more than 200 years. We also thought that those historical problems deepened with the ongoing socioeconomic deterioration that we have been experiencing since the late nineteen seventies and which we have still not been able to resolve. Added to all this are the disastrous effects of neoliberal economic restructuring and adjustment programs, quite divorced from our own reality, which sharpened and deepened social, economic, political and cultural exclusion here in Venezuela and throughout the continent.

Yet just as we lay bare the defects that have plagued the construction and development of our society over time, we also recognize the internalization process of our rights as citizens of a democratic society, given to us by the actors of a representative democracy that is today known as “Punto Fijo.” Venezuela is today a paradigmatic case of participatory democracy throughout the world, because this democracy is derived, among other things, from the previous representative democracy, whose State –though it never fully practiced it – understood and inculcated the notion of democracy in the minds of the people as being both a system of liberties and a system characterized by the aspirations of equality and social justice.

Throughout the 80s and the 90s, citizens increasingly withdrew their trust and votes from our representative democracy and its hegemonic actors. The inability of those actors to find creative answers to the crisis; their growing social insensitivity toward the rising levels of exclusion being faced by the great majority; their extreme absorption in a reality that was becoming increasingly limited to their private and privileged circles, fomented a general rejection of politics and politicians, that permeated the political climate during those years. Given the El Amparo massacre and the Caracazo riots, unforgettable episodes which highlight the state of decomposition into which our democracy had fallen, the society distanced itself from the parties and rejected them, thereby initiating the irreversible cycle of their delegitimization. In the meantime, other alternative actors and projects were beginning to emerge, eagerly seeking an alternative within the democratic game.

In 1993, Rafael Caldera and Andrés Velásquez represented this alternative. In 1998, disappointed by the scale of unfulfilled promises made by President Caldera and by the alliance of political forces supporting his government, and faced with the collapse of oil prices on world markets – a development that may be ascribed in large measure to the Caldera government and its oil-opening policy – the citizens opted for a more radical change. In December, they ensured victory for Mr. Chávez and the Polo Patriótico, which led to a substantial modification in the preceding hegemonic struggle with the political predominance of new actors offering a a project other than the neoliberal project that had predominated up till then.

The electoral map emerging from the 1998 elections reflects the economically, socially, politically and spatially polarized society that we are today and that we perceive with such clarity and concern. It is the result of over 20 years of socioeconomic decline, of the shrinking of the democratic institutional framework and of political disorientation. While Mr. Chavez, his alliance of forces and his Bolivarian project enjoyed an easy win nationally and an almost crushing victory in the more working class areas, in the residential areas occupied by the high- and middle-income sectors, the various opposition factions that perceive Chavez as a threat to democracy and modernity triumphed. Our cities have split up into pro-Chávez and anti-Chávez territories, that have been closed off and made inaccessible and that provide only a few public spaces where we are unwilling to venture whenever we march and protest against each other, while the rest of the time, we are confined to our homes because our streets are so unsafe and hostile. The phenomenon of political polarization is revealed over and over again during each election that is called, be it the constitutional referendum in 1999, the elections in 2000 or this time, a little more pronounced, the presidential recall in 2004. But we should not be mistaken. Mr. Chávez’s discourse did not produce it, although it did deepen and worsen it; nor will a mere change in Mr. Chávez’s discourse resolve it, although it would help. A society divided into two blocks–one which has supported the crystallization of hegemonic forces within the State since 1998 and which, in eight elections, has proven that its consists of the majority of the citizens–and another, a considerable minority, which vehemently rejects it because it considers itself to be outside, against and excluded from the forward-looking project that the Bolivarian project involves.

The “Bolivarian” political project began to take shape, as is well known, first in the 1999 Constitution, then in the National Socioeconomic Development Plan for 2001-2007 and in a host of laws and regulations. When earlier attempts were made under other previous five-year governments to develop a political project whose orientation and interests were almost in line with neoliberalism and with the hegemonic features of power worldwide, this change led to an outburst of bitter political conflicts.

The combined improvisations, blunders and authoritarian tendencies of Mr. Chávez’s government between 1999 and 2001 only added fuel to the flames. Between the end of 2001 and today, when the results of the presidential recall have offered us the opportunity to enter a new phase, those opposed to the Bolivarian project of Mr. Chávez and of his social and political forces have used a series of mainly insurrectionary strategies to modify, to their benefit, the hegemonic crystallization that is now underway in the State. However, they have failed repeatedly in this endeavor.

The coup d’état that was launched on April 11, the indefinite nation-wide strike along with the strike-cum-sabotage of the oil industry, the appeals for consultative referenda, all of which were intended deceitfully to bring about a presidential recall, street blockade protests, paramilitary operations, military disobedience, calls to tax evasion, “liberated” territories, insurrectionary marches, institutional crises that there caused with the aim of fomenting a climate of ungovernability, are all the elements that have characterized the last three years of our lives in a phase that we wish anxiously to put to an end and that is plague by violence and death. Venezuelan men and women have died or have been injured or incapacitated by the violence caused by this confrontation. Dozens of rural leaders have been murdered for defending the land law.  As recently as Monday, August 16, three men armed with pistols went to Altamira square, took the life of a woman who was a supporter of the “YES” vote and injured some ten people. In other areas around the city, that are given much less coverage by the private media, two supporters of the “NO” vote were shot down while celebrating. Throughout this turmoil, tens of thousands have seen their lives deteriorate in the absence of a democratic dialogue between the different political figures and in view of the havoc that these acts have wreaked on the economy and on everyday life in our cities and in our rural areas.

Las Furies, goddesses that unleash passion and political violence, are difficult to appease once they are awakened. They demand more and more blood.

But just as the Athenians, at the hands of Athene, the goddess of wisdom, gradually persuaded them to calm down by offering them an altar at the polis, recognition of their status and of their institutions, here in Venezuela we the citizens should also begin to force the waters back within their banks and to appease the blood-thirsty furies. Athene managed to persuade with her words, with dialogue, with recognition. Likewise, we, too, must grant recognition to the other, to the one whom we do not like, and, with him, address the major challenges that lie ahead in pacifying our own furies; we must we strive to foster peaceful coexistence in the midst of the differences and diversity that, after so much confrontation, we can see more clearly; and we must guide relations along the lines of clear democratic procedures. The second part of my statement will be concerned with the challenges.

The current situation and the obligations of each and every one of us

We woke up on the morning of 16 August once again recognizing the intricatereality of the transformation that has taken place in recent decades. We are a fragmented society, whose economic, social, spatial, cultural and political boundaries are defined by a class-related logic. Whoever is poor is pro-Chávez because, with Chávez, he can hope for a change for himself and for his children. The Bolivarian discourse and project include him; they give him an identity and a sense of belonging allowing him to move about in this jungle which the planet, globalized by transnational financial capital, has become. Whoever belongs to the upper classes is anti-Chávez because, in this regard, he is promised an imaginary reality that is western and modern, and that is essentially white and Anglo-Saxon, with which he fully identifies. The leaders of the opposition are his peers and he trusts that they will safeguard his property and his liberties in the face of the threat posed by the “mobs.” They make him feel like a cosmopolitan, a citizen of the world. The middle classes tend to lean toward any one of the two poles, but the most visible and powerful ones took the path of opposition. These are the ones who were raised over the past 25 years in urban areas that were cut off from the popular sectors of the society; who were educated in private schools, many of which were Catholic schools, and who graduated from universities – including public universities – that today are attended by very few students of humble origin. Surrounded by a similar family and work environment, in which the poor were becoming an increasingly remote species, they chose to confuse “their” reality with “the” reality and “their” country with “the” country.

The media took charge of emphasizing this perversion, particularly in recent years, when a partial and deformed world is presented before our very eyes whenever we watch channels 33, 4 or 2.

In the meantime, channel 8, the state-owned channel, depicts another country, full of our ancestors of mixed races, full of cultural diversity and poverty, a country that was hidden and silent and that is now marching triumphantly through the street because it constitutes the majority. How can the gap that has developed between these two countries be breached? How can convergence be once again fostered on a forward-looking project? Below, I will outline some of the challenges that, I believe, are our major challenges.

First Challenge

If we are to have democracy in the twenty-first century, we must recognize that, with respect to minorities, this is the government of the majority. I think that the results of of August 15 clearly illustrate what the position of the majority is and challenge us to recognize this. Up until yesterday, our democracy was for the elite, for the minorities that agreed among themselves and set the conditions for a political order that succeeded in controlling the majority with the use of abundant resources. Today, if Venezuelan democracy is to be substantive, profound, authentic, it must be for majority. And as long as the poor remain the absolute majority in this society, they will continue to choose the national government. Can the elite understand and accept this? Is the fact that democracy is government by the majority and respect for the minority such a revolutionary idea? In Latin America and in Venezuela, this seems to be the case. Many times governments have fallen because they have justly represented the majority to the detriment of the rights and privileges assumed by the dominant minorities in our societies.

Second Challenge

Can majority groups engage in dialogue with minority groups, respect them and venture to recognize them as equals? The discourse used by the president has been successful insofar as it has been classist and it has been revanchist. The majority groups, including indigenous communities which have been dispossessed of all attributes of citizenship, or the newly poor and/or impoverished, that have felt much social resentment because they have been excluded for centuries, have found in the words of the president a voice that will represent them and will alleviate their pain. But now, appeasing the furies, as the song goes, is not about taking you out so that I can take your place or about continuing to incite hatred between the classes and between different racial or cultural groups. It is now vital, without abandoning the highly necessary transformations that have been put off for so long, to recognize that we are all citizens and that we must therefore all hold in this tiny part of the planet.

The challenge to recognize the other is still an issue that has not been addressed, particularly by the leadership and by the some of the fundamental elements within the opposition that, in spite of all the empirical evidence, refuse to recognize that the other not only exists but also is their equal and is “for the time being” the majority. There is also an urgent need for the governing party to give up its coarse discourse according to which anyone opposed to the government is a “coup-minded oligarch.”

Third Challenge

If we have reached this stage of schizophrenia and alienation by means of a process that has existed for a long time, let us be aware that any solution will take time. Perseverance is not a very visible component in our political culture, but, as a matter of urgency, we must cultivate and demand it of ourselves and of our leaders. The political short-sightedness of these leaders, coupled with their intolerable levels of ignorance and opportunism, brought us to the brink of a civil war in April 2002. Over the past three years, the political short-sightedness of the Democratic Coordinator has repeatedly brought us to their bases along paths that have been leading more to a “showdown,” as they have called some of their irresponsible strategies, and to political suicide in springtime. We must demand that, once and for all, we ourselves and those who practice social and political activism should now go beyond that improvised, irresponsible and extremely short-sighted vision and should intelligently devise well-examined strategies, which are consistent with a Utopian horizon, which goes beyond the day after, and which will continue into the medium and the long term. Politics is one of the most difficult professions in any given society and more so if the sections of the latter have been rendered ill because of fear, division and grudge. It is time to support our more serious politicians and to control them so that they will represent us responsibly in the difficult task that we all have ahead of us.

Fourth Challenge

As the legitimate representative of the Venezuelan State, the government of Mr. Chávez has the primary and unavoidable obligation of spearheading the process of reunification, dialogue and reconciliation. To this end, he must think and act in accordance with a series of different perspectives, dimensions and time periods. The State and the elite which acted accordingly in the past are mainly to blame for the fact that today the state has been torn to pieces and that major sectors are unable to look at each other and to view each other as equals or to feel mutual fear or hatred toward each other. Ever since the 80s and the 90s, the educational State has backed away from its duty of providing the citizens of this republic with quality education, thereby forcing the poor to remain mired in ignorance or to receive a very low level of education, while impelling the middle classes to to seek private, mostly religiously-based education. This led to the loss of certain public spaces that are invaluable to learning the art of coexistence between citizens and for recognition and solidarity among us, regardless of our ethnic background, economic position or social or spatial standing. It also led to the loss of those quintessential spaces in which, in our childhood, we receive common or similar references and values about the life that we must share. The Bolivarian project has quite skillfully moved toward restoring education as the primary right of all citizens. But it should be viewed not only as a tool with which those who were excluded yesterday may overcome this exclusion and may be granted an increasingly wholesome sense of citizenship but also as the space per se where men and women of all strata and of all ethnic backgrounds, who inhabit this land of grace, will have to recover their identities as Venezuelans and will have to recognize one another as equals in the midst of diversity.

Fifth Challenge

The State also has the primary and unavoidable duty, at its various political and administrative levels, to restore the conditions for democratic coexistence that has been lost in our cities, particularly our major cities, for decades. Because of neoliberal globalization, the fragmented conditions of cities of Latin America have deepened, and urban maps have been redrawn to depict, on the one hand, enclaves linked to the nuclei of the global economy and, on the other, spaces without any interest in that economy, where majority sectors were left to their fate.

In the meantime, the State neglected its public safety duties. In Venezuela, the prevailing common sense, which has sought to prevail throughout these years of political struggle, favored the occupation of public spaces for the most diverse private interests. As a result, we have cities that are segregated along class lines and that are inhospitable, unsafe and dirty, in those areas inhabited by the excluded, and protected with bars, rolls of barbed wire, electrically protected circuits, and private security services in the residential neighborhoods and in the shopping malls of the middle and upper classes; spaces which unsuccessfully seek to be erected in the bubbles of modernity in the midst of an ocean of insecurity. One urban planner called them “besieged cities” in comparing them with medieval cities where certain social groups which remained locked up within their castles, allowing themselves to be convinced by mediocre leaders of the need to make “contingency plans” against the barbarians lying in wait for them. This situation reached unlikely extremes with the brutal polarization of this insurrectionary phase and must therefore be urgently reversed.

It is now an unavoidable challenge for mayors and other local authorities to pay greater attention to the cities and to convert them into spaces for fostering the union and co-existence of the diverse groups of which our nation consists. Our parks, squares, and streets must be restored their public function and character and, therefore, must provided with the conditions which guarantee that the entire society—not just a part of it—is able to fully exercise its human rights. The private sector and organized communities in all the social sectors also have a major role to play in this regard. It is imperative that local activities should be politically depolarized. Our authorities should play down their prominence as political figures and should strengthen their roles as administrators and managers capable of dealing with the everyday problems and as individuals elected by us to join forces with the organized communities to solve the complex and difficult everyday problems. The security forces, an essential part of life in the polis, have, in this conflict, served feudal armies placed at the services of the different political factions, which has thereby led to increased infringement of the right to live in safety, which we should all enjoy as citizens, and has stifled the minimum conditions needed within which to develop a democratic society.

It is imperative to invest material and organizational resources in the basic services of water, transport, policing, garbage, lighting, cleaning, and beautification. It is necessary to quickly offer incentives so that the communities, together with their authorities, may design and implement cultural and political programs that will allow us to take control over our cities, to feel like citizens in them and proud of them, and to perceive them as friendly, secure, enjoyable, beautiful, clean and, at the same time, to perceive our fellow citizen as a neighbor and not as a wrongdoer ready to infringe upon our rights. Just as we should praise the recent efforts made to take culture to those who never had access to it, so, too, it is necessary that the explicit objective of these new policies should be to help in the construction of spaces to encourage social integration. Indeed, education, culture and the city, I believe, are three great strategic focal points which which that reunion with the other, that reconciliation, that social health and that participatory democracy may be fostered. 

Sixth Challenge

The opposition faces the daunting challenge of submitting itself to the law and of rebuilding itself on the basis of failures and achievements. Given that they are the representatives of a considerable and respectable segment of Venezuelan society, it is necessary, for the benefit of the society and for the health of the republic, to leave the insurrectionary confrontation behind. In May 2003, both the government and the opposition, under the auspices of the OAS, the Carter Center and the UNDP, signed an agreement in which they pledged to find a way out of the political crisis within the guidelines established by the 1999 Constitution. In point 12 of this agreement, they explicitly pledged to respect and to adhere to the requirements of article 72 of the Constitution, which refers to presidential recall processes and, in article 13, to seek the formation of a new CNE to conduct the that process. These steps were fully implemented and the recall has been successfully conducted. Reality is not always what we wold like it to be, but it is what it is.

Frankly speaking, those who lack the appropriate tools required to grasp and to understand the reality around them cannot lead. 

The lack of courage demonstrated by the highest leaders of this segment of society is a cause for concern for the nation and for the world, and an insult to its foundations. According to surveys, their legitimacy has currently fallen to its lowest point. Maybe for many of them, their political life has already come to an end, and we are in the presence of phantasmagoric figures that still refuse to leave the stage. Or perhaps that is their way of leaving the stage. In any event, we will not have the substantive or healthy democracy that we long for if a significant number of the leaders of the opposition fail to change their attitude, or if a substitute leadership emerges that is able to represent and guide that other Venezuela, which is nonconformist and which, in certain sectors, has adopted a radicalized attitude against the government. This is one of the most uncertain and worrisome issues hovering over the republic today. However, there are no power vacuums that will not be filled. It is the duty of all citizens, men and women alike, to fight to ensure that the emerging government and opposition leaderships are democratic, realist and intelligent.

Seventh Challenge

I cannot fail to mention the challenge that the professional elite, the intellectuals, the artists, and the universities all have before them. They must recognize our reality and understand it in its transformation, with all its wounds and diseases, yet with all its potentialities. This is a subject in which this social sector has failed over and over again. How can we move ahead when a significant segment of the thinking sectors of our nation continues to be so absorbed in a country that no longer exists? I believe that hardly a week before the recall, one survey conducted by the UCV (the Central University of Venezuela), counter to the general trends of practically all the other fairly objective surveys, gave a firm advantage to the YES vote. One thing is certain and that is that the current mood of of many of our intellectuals has ruined their cognitive skills and ability to understand the profound changes that the vicissitudes of globalization have caused for societies like ours that are on the periphery of capitalism.

It also seems that many lack the humility to recognize bad calculations and mistakes, or the willing to place themselves at the service of the profound changes being demanded by the large majorities. We call on them to open university spaces to the debate of ideas, to polemics and, above all, to tolerance toward those who think differently. We also call on them to concentrate less on financial demands and to offer more services to the society as a whole and to the State. 

The public universities should be responsible for training the doctors that are needed for the Barrio Adentro project and for all other social projects that will allow the popular sectors to fully exercise their social and economic rights. We also need architects, engineers and urban planners to develop socially integrated cities that are consistent with our tropical profile and with our cultural diversity. We need imaginative economists who will not copy recipes. This is an oil country and it does not need to be limited by any particular scheme. We need dentists, pharmacists, internationalists, and humanists with the social sensitivity to make their invaluable knowledge and skills available to deal with the difficult task of building a country that can feel proud of itself in the twenty-first century, a country created by all of us so that we we may recognize and respect our respective idiosyncrasies and a country where we all fit in and coexist in peace and democracy.

Eighth Challenge

I wish to end this reflection by addressing President Chávez, the National Assembly, and the maximum authorities of the different branches of government that are present here today at the headquarters of the Assembly. The people spoke clearly on August 15 and ratified the President so that he may complete his term. With this support, the people seem to to have said that the country project proposed by the Bolivarian government is the one they consider most suitable to to guide the reconstruction of the nation. Most Venezuelans seem to value the initiatives undertaken by this government which, clearly asserted since 1998, that the core of our problems was and continues to be the historical and current exclusion experienced by of majority of Venezuelans. 

The recall succeeded in lowering by 10 points the levels of abstention that this society has been demonstrating over the past 20 years. The merit of this project is that it has succeeded in re-politizing Venezuelans and in giving them a sense and a dimension of citizenship and of country. But there is still so much more left to be done. It is an enormous challenge to hold the helm of the State firmly and straight along the path leading to the consolidation of participatory democracy, without giving in to the authoritarian and despotic temptations that are characteristic of a weak institutional framework and of a democratic political culture which, like ours, is lacking in so many ways. 

The President and his governing team also have the unavoidable challenge of finding the words and the spaces needed to engage in dialogue over and over again with those who are opposed to them and with their leaders, in order to return to the coexistence established by the law. And perhaps the greatest challenge is to value and to persist unwaveringly in the urgent task of building the institutions of the Fifth Republic, those that will guarantee us justice and inclusion and that, regardless of the men and women who may take the reins of the different apparatuses and branches of the State, we the average citizens can remain calm in the belief that our families, our sons and daughters and, in general, the sons and daughters of all those who have chosen to live in this territory of the planet, will have the opportunity to lead a good and honorable life, in a society that shows full respect for their human rights. It is a challenge that can be faced by our society, which has struggled so hard over the last years to build a better future for itself. 

Thank you. 

Margarita López Maya is a historian with a Ph.D in social sciences. She is serves as a professor and researcher at the Central University of Venezuela (UCV) and is also director of the Venezuelan Magazine of Economics and Social Sciences.