We interview two Caracas city council candidates for the upcoming November 21 regional and local elections: Jesús García, United Socialist Party (PSUV) candidate, and Janohi Rosas, from the Popular Revolutionary Alternative (APR), a mostly-Chavista leftist front that broke with the government-dominated Great Patriotic Pole in 2020 and includes the Communist Party (PCV) as the major force. García is a charismatic leader from the Altos de Lídice Commune in Caracas who aspires to promote the construction of a communal city in Caracas. Rosas is the spirited chairperson of Venezuela’s Communist Youth who hopes to implement a range of progressive policies if she is elected to the municipal legislature.
What are the objectives and program of your candidacy for the November 21 elections?
I come from the Altos de Lídice Socialist Commune where we are developing a methodology for self-government that is working out very well. Our model shows that when people come together, organize and empower themselves – no matter the context – they are capable of finding the solutions to their problems.
That is the model we want to bring to the city council: a new way of governing that should go hand in hand with citizens’ assemblies. It is a fresh way of doing politics that trusts in and is committed to the pueblo. In short, we are talking about activating the direct, participative and protagonistic democracy that Chávez bequeathed to us.
We want to shape our future from below. I believe that people’s participation in spaces of power is not a thing of the past. It isn’t idealism, quite the contrary! We are convinced that the most efficient way to build a better future is to do so hand-in-hand with the people: we want to build from and with the people, using a co-management model.
That is why my participation in the Municipal Council will be to promote legislation that will favor the pueblo. However, in economic terms, I will also seek to help the new entrepreneurs prosper. This is a movement that is growing nationwide, especially in big cities like Caracas. Entrepreneurship is the force of people who are creating family-owned productive units, small and medium-sized enterprises. These are people who are placing their bets with Venezuela’s re-emerging economy.
We want these actors to strengthen their work inside the barrio, inside the commune and the communal council. In other words, we seek mutually beneficial relationships.
We also want to strengthen this model with a new tax regime that gives entrepreneurs advantages while the revenues are managed by organized communities. We propose that taxes go directly to the communal bank so that communes, which are spaces of popular self-government, can execute projects in the territory. We will advocate for three-way co-management between communes, private enterprises, and the Municipal Council.
Basically, we want to restore power to the people in all political and economic spheres. To do this, it is urgent to strengthen the safety net in place and begin to provide solutions to the serious problems in public services. We believe that this can be achieved through empowerment of the people.
The Municipal Council, which is a structure that comes from colonial times, must be transformed and put in the service of the people. State institutions must become tools in the construction of Bolivarian socialism, of Venezuela’s democratic socialism, of Chávez’s XXI century socialism.
There are people who do not support our proposals, but we are convinced that we can guarantee peace, progress, and prosperity. That is why Chavismo is still here, in all the spaces of power within the government: that is how the people have wanted it, and that is how it will be on November 21.
How do you interpret the importance of the upcoming regional elections in the national and international context?
The upcoming elections are important for the country as a whole because, even though they are regional in nature, the radical opposition has finally abandoned the electoral boycott and the logic of violence; it decided to participate in the democratic game. This is very good because, by taking part in the elections, they are also recognizing that the government is legitimate. All this has been achieved thanks to President Nicolás Maduro’s constant call for dialogue and through the enormous resilience and courage of the Venezuelan people.
However, we are not dropping our guard: we know that the opposition operating under Washington’s dictates has a plan B, and we hope that this plan does not include disrespecting the election results and initiating a new cycle of violence.
From the PSUV and the Great Patriotic Pole, we are doing what must be done: generating a positive electoral environment for the November 21 “mega-elections.” With that in mind, we are doing house-to-house visits, we are looking to employ the 1×10 technique [PSUV practice of getting each activist to ensure the participation of ten people on polling day], and we are working with electoral witnesses, etc.
The world must understand once and for all that Venezuela is a sovereign nation and that everything here is settled through democracy. Moreover, Venezuela is a beacon for many struggles in Latin America and every election here is crucial at the continental level. We hope that the popular forces will once again achieve a resounding victory.
Let us dispel the ghosts of violence and the doomsayers who think that they can overthrow our peace with retrograde maneuvers. Against all odds, the Venezuelan economy is getting back on its feet, and we won’t let their obscure political interests get in the way of the country’s progress.
While the enemy placed its bets on the collapse of the government by orchestrating an economic catastrophe, the people have demonstrated that they will proceed with creativity, resilience, and a democratic attitude. We are Leonidas’ [Spartan] army resisting the enemy’s pressure, safeguarding Chavez’s project, and waiting for the next leftist wave in the continent.
Finally, how do you think the contradictions within Chavismo should be resolved?
In spite of criticisms of the PSUV, the next elections will allow people like Danniellys Angulo who comes from a commune, Ricardo Barreto who is a combative young man, Ángel Prado from El Maizal Commune, and myself to be candidates. In the upcoming contests, there are many candidates who come from the grassroots and are not simply the usual suspects.
I also believe that there are spaces for debate to address our internal contradictions, and when there aren’t, then it is up to us to generate them. Those who criticize the government or the PSUV must find a way to advance tangible projects, to make proposals that are anchored in real experiences of political and economic empowerment, so that their criticisms are grounded.
I also think that the internal democracy of the party must continue to grow. We must not abandon this methodology, which is the one that gives the best results for the party and the people. I believe that the task is ours: with internal debate, with examples of real construction, with more democracy, with programmatic content, and taking better care of the militants, we will succeed in strengthening the party.
If anyone has sustained this country in the midst of the blockade, it has been precisely the leaders on the street. There are thousands of us, and we are the ones who have really lifted this country up. We are the guarantors of peace… and we are Chavistas!
There is an impressive force within Chavismo, a force that is diverse and will always have internal contradictions, but it is a force of change. To the extent that grassroots candidates can build programs – to the degree that the party takes into account its militancy through internal democracy – the problems within will be corrected.
I believe that the PSUV, which is the most important party in Latin America – or at least the most victorious – is getting stronger. Furthermore, the party today can give lessons in resilience to other parties in the continent, teaching them how to resist the empire’s attacks, how to win while harassed by imperialism, and how to achieve those victories in a democratic environment.
I am convinced that contradictions are resolved through hard work, debate, and through the exercise of internal democracy. That is exactly what the PSUV did with the August primaries.
What are your goals and your program for the November 21 elections?
The objective of our campaign is to convince the Venezuelan people that there is an alternative to the neoliberal pact that is underway. The governing party and the right-wing opposition agree that the way out of the economic crisis is to offer a red carpet to private capital, thus sacrificing conquests made by the people and labor rights. This natural affinity between the two is the basis for the Mexico negotiations.
In the face of the attempt to repeat the neoliberal recipe of the 1980s – which comes with great suffering for the people and loss of sovereignty – the APR and the PCV have put forth an alternative political proposal: the defense of social and labor rights, which are at the center of our political agenda.
In contrast, the PSUV leadership coincides with the right-wing opposition when they say that those of us who make proposals in favor of the people – such as the demand for a living wage as established in the constitution – as demagogy or ultra-leftism. This is proof that the leadership of the governing party has ceased to represent the interests of the people and is siding with private capital.
The PCV and the APR have a huge responsibility. We are the only political force that represents the genuine aspirations and needs of the Venezuelan people today. Our goal is to bring the people together and make them protagonists in the construction of an alternative political force. That force must be an authentic expression of the pueblo’s interests, and it should be capable of governing in a truly democratic, honest, and transparent manner.
In short, we propose a radical change in governmental logics. Today governing decisions are taken by politicians who have turned their backs on the people. By contrast, we propose local and regional governments with a participatory and protagonistic character, involving communal councils, communes, neighborhood organizations, trade unions and workers’ councils, as well as student, cultural and sports organizations, all of which will participate in the design and control of public policies.
Our objective is not to use popular organizations to legitimate government policy. Instead, we want to build a new institutional framework where proposals that emerge from social and popular organizations have a binding character. The APR will also promote participatory budgeting so that the social and popular organizations decide how and where to allocate resources.
Of course, we also advocate for an honest and transparent government: every bolívar in the municipal budget must be accounted for and transactions should be submitted to the most thorough citizen audits. Fighting corruption with rules, transparency, and social control is a must.
Another important item of our campaign program is public services. We consider access to water, electricity, domestic gas, internet, transportation, health, and education to be fundamental citizens’ rights, and providing solutions will be a priority. Obviously, this won’t be easy, and we will have to fight against the corrupt networks that have emerged in the shadow of precarious public services.
We will also fight against attempts to privatize services and other public assets while we organize to fight against usury and speculation. To this end, we will promote public policies to improve food supply in Caracas, we will work to expand municipal markets, and we will combat [police] extortion.
In the sphere of labor, we will defend people’s right to living wages and the recognition of collective rights. We believe that the City Council and the Mayor’s Office must accompany the struggles of public and private sector workers in the city of Caracas. The City Council and the Mayor’s Office must make employers comply with labor laws and collective bargaining agreements.
Finally, our government will be a government of solidarity: we will provide support to the sectors of the population that are hardest hit by the capitalist crisis and by the illegal imperialist sanctions. Building social programs to meet pensioners’ needs, helping people who require high-cost medical treatment, offering attention to families at risk, providing the tools so that young people can continue their studies and access employment programs are some of our priorities. Likewise, from the mayor’s office, we will assume the defense and protection of victims of machista violence.
This is a brief summary of a program that is much broader, and which also includes proposals to increase production and for the modernization of public administration through the use of free, opensource technologies.
How do you understand the importance of the upcoming regional elections in the national and international context?
The context for the upcoming elections is different from the last two electoral processes. They are taking place in a context of negotiations between the government and the right-wing opposition, which has led to a new CNE [National Electoral Council] and the participation of the G4 parties [“Group of Four,” the most powerful opposition bloc, running on the Unity Roundtable (MUD) ticket] in the electoral process – this after they failed to overthrow the government by means of the electoral boycott and sanctions.
In this election, two right-wing hegemonic blocs will seek to divide the country along party lines, but not along project lines. Meanwhile, the illegal disqualification of APR and PCV candidates continues. On October 31, a new institutional maneuver to hinder our electoral proposal happened when the CNE, the electoral arbiter, rejected four of our candidacies in three states of the country for no good reason. This includes Guillermo Bernaez, candidate for mayor of Cajigal, Anzoátegui; José Noguera, candidate for mayor of Guanta, also Anzoátegui; Carmen Saravia, candidate for mayor of Brión, Miranda; and Wilfredo Rivero, candidate for mayor of Cruz Salmerón Acosta, Sucre. This comes on the heels of the unjustified disqualifying of Eduardo Samán, the APR’s candidate for mayor of Caracas; Nerio Galbán, candidate for governor of La Guaira state, and Miguel Vásquez, candidate for mayor of Marianao, Nueva Esparta.
There have been no institutional explanations as to why these APR candidates were disqualified. The CNE just said that requests to disqualify them were introduced by the Comptroller of the Republic, who, for his part, remains silent. It should be known, however, that these attacks will not make us reconsider our program. On the contrary, they are proof that we are on the right path.
In the face of the dramatic situation generated by bad government policies and the criminal foreign sanctions promoted by the right-wing opposition, the two hegemonic blocs [PSUV and MUD] fear a real political alternative. For us, the November 21st elections are an important moment in the construction of the revolutionary force that many Venezuelan people are looking for.
Finally, how do you think the contradictions within Chavismo should be settled?
I do not know if by Chavismo you mean the sectors that identify themselves with the anti-neoliberal, patriotic and social justice ideas of President Hugo Chávez, or the whole spectrum of people who identify themselves as Chavista, including those that advance in a direction that is antagonistic to Chávez’s proposals.
Additionally, we don’t consider that all the revolutionary forces in Venezuela are within the Chavista camp. The left in Venezuela goes beyond Chavismo.
So, as I was saying, within Chavismo we distinguish two currents: on the one hand, a true Chavismo that defends the original anti-neoliberal ideas of Chávez, and on the other the leadership of the governing party who also self-identify as Chavistas while they apply a package of neoliberal policies. In practice, this tendency is anti-Chavista, even though they present themselves as Chavista to confuse the bases of their party.
In programmatic terms, we have nothing in common with the neoliberal sector that claims to be Chavista and that has taken sides with private capital. They are enemies of the working class and their policies prove it. However, we are actually in the same camp as the Chavista forces that continue to defend Chávez’s anti-neoliberal program and denounce the neoliberal course of the current government.
That is why we are in the process of building a political referent that will bring together all revolutionary forces. However, this is an effort that goes beyond Chavismo. The APR seeks to bring together all expressions of the Venezuelan left and all those forces that are against the neoliberal pact.