Last Tuesday, a delegation of city councilors from the United Socialist Party of Venezuela departed for a two-week visit with the City Council of Marinaleda, Spain, to exchange ideas about promoting inclusive democracy and economic equality at the local level.
The councilors from the Libertador Municipality in Merida, Venezuela received a special invitation from Mayor Juan Manuel Sanchez Gordillo, whose administration has established collectively owned property and humanist social programs in the largely rural municipality of Marinaleda.
In a joint statement, the Venezuelan city councilors said they would attend “a series of working meetings to exchange ideas within the framework of complementarity, respect, collaboration, and multi-polar relations between both municipalities”.
The statement referred to Gordillo as “a revolutionary mayor who shares in the Bolivarian Project” and who “has totally combated unemployment and insecurity, and provided solid waste management and other services with a socialist revolutionary program, which has improved the quality of life”.
The group of Venezuelan officials hopes to “show the advances of the Bolivarian revolution and break through the media blockade that exists against the Venezuelan revolutionary process, in particular within the European Union”, according to Cesar Angulo, the president of the Commission of Inter-Institutional Relations of Libertador City Council.
“The people of Marinaleda will learn about Venezuela’s transformation from a neoliberal model to a society based on communal power, through the public policies of the Bolivarian Revolution”, Angulo said in an interview with COI.
Councilor Luz Mayeli Molina, who is also part of the PSUV delegation to Marinaleda, said she hoped to learn from Gordillo’s 30-year experience as mayor in order to improve the performance of the PSUV in local government.
“We recognize that our municipality in this moment has certain difficulties mostly in providing services to our communities, and we want to learn about their experience [in Marinaleda] and bring these experiences not only to Libertador Municipality but also to many municipalities around the state and even the country”, said Molina.
The councilor added that among her objectives is to “to be able to convert the state that we have into the true socialist state led by President Chavez”.
Each Venezuelan councilor is expected to make a presentation about a major aspect of the PSUV’s political strategy in Merida, including its policy toward healthcare, education, agricultural development through a community-led process known as endogenous development, and other public policies that receive limited exposure in the international media.
The two groups of city councilors also plan to discuss the impact of the international economic crisis, and their responses to the crisis. “We know that a large part of Spain, like in other countries, has been severely affected by this crisis, and we want to know what was Marinaleda’s experience compared to ours,” Molina commented.
Angulo said the Venezuelan delegation would “be in solidarity with the movement of outraged people who have been trampled by the neoliberal measures of the government of [Spanish President Jose Luis] Rodríguez Zapatero”.
Mayor Gordillo was first elected in 1979 on the Workers’ Unity Collective platform, which won an absolute majority of seats on the Marinaleda City Council. He has been continuously re-elected by the municipality’s 2,600 residents, and is now serving his ninth term as mayor. Over the past 32 years, the Marinaleda City Council has promoted full employment policies, expanded social benefits for the poor, and undertaken radical reforms often through land occupations.
Gordillo’s administration also changed the names of city streets from the names of Franco-era military generals the names of Latin American socialists such as the Cuba’s Antonio Maceo and Chile’s Salvador Allende. Marinaleda’s official flag bears the slogan: “In Utopia Toward Peace”.