Wednesday, March 6, 2013

The Venezuelan Revolution: A True Revolution

When Hugo Chávez was elected President in 1999, Venezuela experienced a transformative, 180-degree revolution, commonly referred to as the Bolivarian Revolution. Chávez implemented several strategic reforms, along with the Constitution of the Bolivarian Republic of Venezuela. Food sovereignty is an integral part of that constitution and the framework was created through a democratic process with input from the people and built on four core principles.

Felix Lopez is the Coordinator of Production at the Aracal Cooperative in Urachichi in the state of Yaracuy in Venezuela. He is also part of the Indigenous Farmers’ Movement of Yaracuy, known as Movemiento Jirajara. Feilx has been part of the struggle for decades, including during the time prior to Chávez when the Venezuelan government was not supportive of the campesinos’ (farmers’) movement.  This is his story.

“My story is very easy. My parents were farmers from this area and I was brought up in this culture. My father was a member of the communist party of Venezuela. My parents taught me socialist ideals and we grew up thinking and speaking differently. Not just thinking within the system we had, but beyond that.  For years, I have been part of the struggle.  There has been a lot of opposition and I have struggled for better conditions, better ways of living for the farmers. Because of this struggle, I have been imprisoned twice. The protests and calls for our release by the farmers’ movement outside the prison forced them to let me go. That was in ‘78 and ‘91.

“Aracal is the fruit of the everyday struggles of the campesinos. There, we united a large amount of people to come together to form a cooperative. In order for it to be a true revolution, we had to change the model of production, which had been production by and for a single owner. We have had to maintain the battle because there have been a lot of enemies. We had to, at times, fight against the state and other obstacles in order to have a cooperative.

“We were creating a new kind of cooperative, because in Venezuela there already were some cooperatives, but they were capitalist cooperatives. We wanted to have a socialist cooperative. We have created laws for the organization, as well as internal rules. According to the national law of cooperatives, we have to come up with a statute for our organization about what we want, as well as internal rules that moderates how we act. The cooperative strives to get the greatest sense of harmony with our members. For this reason, the members decide what they want to do, based on their interests.

“The socialism that we have been working to move forward is not a form of socialism that we are just following some recipe of Marx or of Mao. It is a Venezuelan style socialism. We are taking different concepts and adapting them to our conditions in Venezuela. I think this is one of the most effective models for society because, to work for yourself, you are not waiting for someone else to give you something or lend you something or provide you with something. It is hard work, but it is not impossible.”

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