Venezuelan “Street Parliaments” to Discuss 26 Law-Decrees

The Venezuelan government and the United Socialist Party of Venezuela (PSUV) started a National Plan of Mobilization for the Defense of the 26 Law-Decrees President Chavez passed last July.

Mérida, September 10, 2008 (– The Venezuelan government and the United Socialist Party of Venezuela (PSUV) started a National Plan of Mobilization for the Defense of the 26 Law-Decrees President Chavez passed last July. The aim is to defend the controversial laws against an opposition and private media campaign and to make the laws known and understood so that they can be used and implemented by the communities.

The laws were approved by means of an Enabling Law, and were enacted by the President on July 31, 2008.

Taken together, the laws are supposed to offer advantages for small and medium sized companies, foster access to housing, guarantee food security, incorporate the social missions as part of the state structure, promote the communal councils, and tried to transcend the divide between the armed forces and the people, among other things.

The PSUV is organizing around 1,600 assemblies across the country to raise awareness of the content of the new 26 law decrees.

According to a survey conducted in August, only 40% of Venezuelans were familiar with the laws.

Diosdado Cabello, mayor of the state of Miranda said that these new laws would strengthen the social areas and popular organization, in which the PSUV has "been a constant defender. We're bringing the words of the constitution to life, and working hard so that it is fulfilled."

As part of the dissemination campaign the Ministry for Communication and Information has written a pamphlet, "Decalogue of the Enabling Laws," which summarizes ten essential aspects of the laws and counters the opposition manipulation of the content of the laws. The pamphlet is being distributed for free and can be downloaded off the internet (in Spanish).

The president of the Foundation Colombeia (part of the ministry for communal economy), Fanny Febles said, "We are traveling across the country to 74 parts of the country in one month, putting the packet of laws into practice."

She explained that the idea is that the community members analyze their surroundings and in the medium term make community projects a reality, and "convert into defenders of the popular economy."

Countless meetings have already taken place across the country, some organized by various ministries, and taking up a specific themed group of laws, others by local and regional PSUV branches and the communal councils.

In Caracas, on September 7th, the Tourism Ministry organized a community forum. The Environment Minister and the ministers for infrastructure (Minfra) and indigenous people also attended. Members of communal councils and missions participated.

In Merida the National Institute of Agricultural Research with the Ministry for Agriculture and Land has been organizing popular assemblies in different municipalities with the aim of discussing the benefits the laws offer in the area of agriculture and livestock.

In the Center of Socialist Formation in Zulia state, communal council members, professionals, and representatives from a range of organizations discussed the advantages of the laws and in working groups participants also raised ideas for future community projects.

The Ministry for Justice and Interior Relations organized a similar meeting in the state of Aragua.

The opposition and private media have been waging a coordinated campaign against the new laws. One of their main claims is that the laws are the constitutional reform in disguise.

On 30 August there was a 4,000-strong protest against the laws in Caracas. Oscar Perez, Carlos Melo, Antonio Ledezma and Pompeyo Marquez, who were participants in the petroleum strike of 2002, gave short speeches.

Some university students are also organizing on campus meetings to ‘reveal' the laws. "Before the start of classes we are preparing…meetings and informing ourselves about the significance of the 26 laws and how they affect us, to be able to inform the people," David Smolansky, counselor at the Catholic University Andres Bello, said.

He argued the laws give greater control to the president and "the Law of Food Sovereignty, where the government practically tells Venezuelans what he's going to eat, what he's going to produce, how it's going to be produced and sold…"

"We have to tell the country how serious these laws are," he said.

The opposition is also launching a signature collection campaign, which it will take to the Organization of American States, in an effort to get a condemnation of the 26 law-decrees.

The president for the Commission of Public Credit in the National Assembly, Elvis Amoroso said this campaign "is a deceitful trick of the sectors against the government, a strategy that they are used to using."

Chavez has argued that the opposition is using the laws as a means to destabilize the country.

He argues the laws "obey the growing needs of society…the classics, the law experts, Montesquieu, Bolivar, have already said it; law should be born as a product of the nature of things. So things keep being born as a result of knowledge, of popular experience."

The PSUV leadership called on the Venezuelan people to become active in the defense of the laws. Mobilizations with this purpose will take place across the country on September 12 and 13.