Mérida, 15th August 2013 (Venezuelanalysis.com) – After seven years of planning and public consultation, Venezuela’s National Assembly (AN) has passed a new law aimed to promote Venezuelan culture.
According to a summary of the new culture law published on the AN website, it aims to “develop the guiding principles, obligations, guarantees and cultural rights enshrined in the constitution of the Bolivarian Republic of Venezuela”.
The law requires that both public and private enterprises that operate in the cultural sector with a net income exceeding 20,000 tax units (currently equal to around BsF2.14 million) must contribute 1% of their earnings to a newly created National Culture Fund.
“This fund will be used to finance the creation, development, training, research, production, promotion, preservation, encouragement and consolidation of cultural activity,” the AN statement reads. The fund will be administered by the Ministry of Culture.
The law also mandates the ministries of education and youth to work alongside the ministry of culture to promote the development of a “national identity” based on “decolonisation thought”.
According to the AN statement, the law will “promote and guarantee the exercise of cultural creativity, the pre-eminence of the values of culture as a fundamental human right… recognising the national identity of cultural and ethnic diversity, multiculturalism and respecting the principle of cultural equality”.
The statement also affirms that the government, along with the private sector and social organisations have an obligation to preserve not only the Spanish language and Hispanic culture, but also that of Venezuela’s indigenous and Afro-Venezuelan population.
The day before the law was passed, the president of Venezuela’s Center for Cultural Diversity Benito Irady spoke of the need for stronger protection of Venezuela’s cultural heritage. Irady argued that there is “no better” example of the need for cultural protection than Venezuela’s Dancing Devils. The devils are the main attraction of a traditional celebration held along Venezuela’s central coastal region on Corpus Christi. Irady criticised the use of the devil’s images by some companies, without the permission of the religious groups that hold the festivals.
Last month, the head of the AN committee for culture and recreation Christobal Jimenez stated that the nationwide consultation process had resulted in the creation of a law “arising from the heart of the people and not as the laws of the Fourth Republic”.
After the law was passed on Tuesday, Minister for Culture Fidel Barbarito tweeted, “Congratulations to the cultural community! This revolutionary act exemplifies democratic popular power.”
Opposition to the Law
Business groups have riled against the new law, including the Venezuelan Federation of Chambers of Commerce (Fedecamaras). A representative of the corporate lobby group called for the AN to “reconsider” their decision to include the measure that requires private companies such as media outlets to contribute to the culture fund. In a press conference, Fedecamaras’ Carlos Larrazabal described the article as a “last minute” addition to the law, arguing that it hadn’t been subject to public scrutiny. Legislator and member of the committee for culture and recreation Luis Barragan claimed the fund creates a “cultural monopoly of the state”, while legislator María Machado has called it a “project of domination and submission”.
Former legislator Leonardo Palacios has also hit out at the measure, arguing it will “only affect the sector’s profitability instead of…stimulating its activity”.
However, on Wednesday President Nicolas Maduro stated that an “ethical-cultural revolution” is needed to counter corruption.
“I’m more and more certain that we must build new political ethics to overcome capitalism’s evil power,” he tweeted.