Last weekend, approximately 7,000 motorcyclists registered in a national census in accordance with a new law meant to prevent crime, promote organization, and regulate motorcycle usage in this crucial facet of Venezuela’s transportation and commercial system.
On the streets of Caracas, motorcyclists weave in and out of trafﬁc to deliver goods and efﬁciently taxi people to hard-to-reach destinations. They sometimes ride in groups to support a political cause or provide a neighborhood watch service to their communities.
Unfortunately, the slyness and anonymity of helmeted motor-cyclists make motorcycles a tool for crime – which the majority of Venezuelans cite as one of the country’s principal problems.
In response, the Venezuelan government invited thousands of motorcyclists to sit down with government ofﬁcials and ofﬁcers from the Bolivarian National Police to create legal regulations that facilitate the legitimate use of motorcycles while preventing illegal usage.
The process began in March and ended last Saturday when President Hugo Chavez signed the new norms into law during a televised meeting of his Council of Ministers. The meeting was broadcast by satellite so that Chavez could address a joyous assembly of 2,000 mo- torcyclists gathered in the National Institute for Land Transportation (INTT) in Caracas.
“This is an example of participatory democracy. You were working in the discussions with the state to formulate the law”, said the President, invoking celebra- tory applause from the crowd.
“This new model of organization of motorcycle drivers is an example of the path to socialism, participation and inclusion”. Chavez added that as a result of their contribution to the improvement of the nation’s transportation network, these “workers on wheels” would be assured inclusion in national programs to protect their security and help them escape poverty and have access to housing.
“I am sure that you all are going to provide a good service to the collective”, said the President.
Several motorcyclists interviewed at the assembly said the new law would help to “dignify” those who use motorcycles for their profession, and to help reverse the stigma that associates motorcyclists with crime.
“For us, this gathering is a proud moment. We have demonstrated today that we want to register and adapt to the law and stop being demonized. The objective is also that the motor- cycle will no longer be a means for delinquency”, said Nestor Chacon, a participant in the assembly and member of the Motorcyclist Front for Community Integration, one of the many guilds present in the assembly.
Other guilds that participated in the assembly were the National Bolivarian Federation of Motorcyclists of Venezuela, the Franco Arquimedes Natio-
nal Bolivarian Front, and the National Association of Socialist Motorcyclists of Venezuela.
Addressing the assembly, Vice Minister for Citizen Security Nestor Reverol said the government’s intention was to “hear all the concerns and complaints of all the different motorcyclist guilds nation-wide”. The census will continue in the coming weeks in regional ofﬁces of the INTT until all of the approximately 120,000 motorcyclists who use public roads nation-wide have been registered, Reverol said.
NEW REGULATIONS PREVENT CRIME
The new law issues a special identiﬁcation card that each motorcyclist must carry at all times. The ID number must be displayed on the motorcycle, on the driver’s helmet, and on a color-coded vest that the drivermust wear to distinguish the ofﬁcial use of the vehicle. Motorcyclists working for state security forces including the Bolivarian National Police and the National Guard will wear an olive green vest, while motorcycle taxi drivers will wear an orange vest, and those using motorcycles for other commercial uses will wear blue vests, according to the law.
Drivers must also obtain a medical certiﬁcate and take a test to prove their capability to operate a motorcycle. The new norms mark the ﬁrst time in Venezuelan history that motorcyclists were systematically included in a process of rulemaking to organize and improve the sector as an integral part of the nation’s economy and transportation system.
“We are called to create consciousness. How can it be possible that they continue to demonizeand stigmatize us? We are really demonstrating that we want to
organize”, said Alexis Tovar, the president of the Franco Arquimedes National Bolivarian Front. Ricardo Vargas, a member of the National Confederation of Motorcyclists, declared: “This is a sector that has been working hard and is willing to continue constructing and consolidating the revolutionary process”.
The motorcycle regulations are part of a broad anti-crime effort that includes increased sports and recreational programs at the community level, local crime prevention ofﬁcers, increased arrests of drug trafﬁckers, and the creation of a new national police university to professionally train the Bolivarian National Police in crime prevention.