Mérida, 15th December 2014 (Venezuelanalysis.com) – Today thousands of Venezuelans marched in Caracas to celebrate 15 years since the Bolivarian Constitution was passed in a nationwide referendum, creating the legal framework for the Bolivarian revolution.
The constitution is considered to be one of the most progressive in the world on many issues, enshrining social rights such as access to health and education as well as political and civil rights. It also guarantees direct and collective political participation, and allows citizens to organise referendums to revoke the mandate of elected officials during their term of office, including the president.
Further, the constitution recognises the identity and rights of discriminated, disadvantaged and minority groups in the population.
The constitution was approved on 15 December 1999 by 71.78% of the popular vote, after an elected constituent assembly had received proposals from across society and had drawn up the document. An assembly to write a new constitution was the initiative of Hugo Chavez, elected president in December 1998.
The greatest threat to the constitution came in April 2002, when the opposition launched a short lived coup against Hugo Chavez and tore up the new magna carta in an attempt to return to the pre-1999 political order.
In 2007 the Chavez administration organised a referendum to introduce further radical changes to the constitution, however the proposals were defeated by a tiny margin. Then, in 2009, Chavez won a referendum to remove limits to presidential reelection in order to be able to run for a third presidential term.
Today, President Nicolas Maduro, a former minister in the Chavez government, addressed thousands of supporters in Avenida Bolivar in Caracas, where he highlighted the historic importance of the constitution.
“This constitution is the child of the people’s wisdom. It’s the first constitution in 200 years of history that was made with the proposals of the people, the universities, the factories, the fields,” he said.
Maduro also explained that the approval of the Bolivarian Constitution had allowed Hugo Chavez to turn a civil – military rebellion into “a popular, democratic, constituent, and peaceful revolution that re-founded the nation”.
The Venezuelan president added that the constitution was inclusive, and that “everyone has space in the constitution…in Venezuela we all have room as long as the right to life and the people are respected”.
Veteran journalist and government supporter Jose Vicente Rangel expressed his view on the importance of the constitution, stating, “What the Bolivarian Constitution consecrates is quite simply the incorporation of the majority of the people into politics”.
Those attending the march also explained the effect the approval of the constitution had had on the development of Venezuelan society and politics since 1999. “In there is the inclusion of social groups, and [the basis for] the communal councils and communes”, said Sara Alcala, who had travelled to Caracas from the eastern state of Anzoátegui.
Elias Ortega, a civil servant, told state news agency AVN, “This constitution has allowed us to consolidate a social base, so that our people could make gains in healthcare, social policy, and housing. Without this magna carta this wouldn’t be possible”.
Many social movements also base their contemporary struggles on the constitution, fighting to fully realise the vision of Venezuelan state and society contained within its pages.