CARACAS, Saturday November 24, 2012 | Update

"A communal State exercises more control and hinders participation"

"The Constitution establishes means for community participation. Political will is simply needed." "With the introduction of communes, mayor's offices would no longer make sense as all they would do is cover payroll expenses"

According to Carlos Ocariz, "Communes are aimed at exercising control over people instead of improving living standards" (Photo: Edsaú Olivares)
Saturday November 24, 2012  12:00 AM
Carlos Ocariz, mayor of Caracas' Sucre Municipality, has a clear standpoint on the issue. "Means to provide the people with increased participation already exist, and nothing new needs to be developed," he categorically points out when asked about the impact of the communal State to be implemented. This politician and civil engineer believes that this measure would reduce mayor's offices and regional governments to their simplest forms.

-How do you think Venezuela would be as a communal State?   

-I believe we will backtrack because, ultimately, the aim is not to give more power to the people but to exercise greater control over the population; that will make the country stagnate. If we truly wanted to increase people's participation, means to do so already exist. We can proudly say that this municipality is country's most participative. Here, public works and services are managed by the community. All this has been achieved without the need to create communes. If the underlying reason were to grant power to communities, the Constitution includes the legal tools to do so. Political will is simply needed.

-Do you think the proposed reorganization of the State is feasible?

-It is not an easy process and would lead to anarchy; it is not feasible to create a State that controls its citizens. I deeply believe in participation, and this is one of the aspects hindered with this move because, for citizens to take part in a commune, a second-tier election would be needed as opposed to a first-tier process. It is not an assembly vote. One would have to be a socialist, that is, limitations abound. In contrast, in the mechanisms we have implemented, there are no restrictions: all you need is the will to participate.

- Would communes, in your opinion, turn into political bodies?

-Absolutely. By attempting to do away with mayor's offices and regional governments, the aim is to exercise control over people and not to enhance living standards. More assistance is needed, and follow-up procedures are required to ensure that all scheduled support projects are performed.

-At present, communal councils are somewhat limited. Would this also happen with communes?            

-Any communal councils from neighborhoods or popular sectors who are not members of government party PSUV are denied registration. I know this firsthand. A communal State will force people to be part of a political party, and that castrates participation by setting conditions and preventing anyone who freely wants to take part from doing so.

-Some analysts believe that communes would encroach upon the duties of mayor's offices. Would you agree?

-I think the aim is to control individuals. I disagree with the term encroachment because we work with communities and do not feel displaced. I believe this is a joint effort.

-What lies ahead for municipalities?

If that project were implemented, mayor's offices and regional governments would be reduced to their simplest forms. Is there any other body that works alongside communities to address issues better than a mayor's office? Who would people resort to? Ministries or PSUV headquarters? Mayor's offices would no longer make sense and would simply cover payroll expenses and not perform any projects. The best path would be to strengthen decentralization.

-What are the proposed alternatives?    

-Our proposal is not theoretical; we are already implementing it and ensuring that communities have access to resources for public works. We have over nine hundred projects on record being conducted by communities, through our participation budget, aimed at improving public works and services. From a political standpoint, this has proven results; communities play the leading role.

Translated by Félix Rojas Alva
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