Venezuela’s Chavez to Ministers: Now is the Time for Self-Criticism


In a cabinet meeting with his top ministers on Saturday, Venezuelan president Hugo Chavez strongly criticised his political team for failing to show commitment to the participatory democratic model currently being proposed by his government and urged them to undertake serious “self-criticism”.

The meeting was the first cabinet meeting to have taken place since the Venezuelan national elections were held on 7 October, in which Chavez won a third presidential term with over 54% of the vote.

During the televised meeting, Chavez made many criticisms of his party, especially with regards to the construction of the country’s communes, which group together communal councils in a given region.

“Where are the communes?” he asked newly appointed Vice-president Nicolas Maduro.

“In (socialist city) Belen, we keep giving houses to people, but you can’t see a commune anywhere. Not even the spirit of the commune, which right now is more important than the commune itself; a communal culture… this is a matter for all of us, this (the communes) are part of the soul of this project,” he said.

Although the Law of the Communes was passed in 2010 and a Ministry of the Communes established, many of the local self-government bodies have not made it past the initial stages of registration.

During the meeting, Chavez suggested that one of the problems impeding the construction of the communes was to have made a ministry responsible for their management, and suggested eliminating the government body.

“I am going to have to eliminate the Ministry of Communes… We have assumed that the problem of the communes is a matter for a ministry, and that is a huge error, we cannot make this error any more, Nicolas,” he said.

The head of state also made a series of comments relating to what he referred to as “a lack of organisation and cooperation” amongst the country’s public media stations and stated that it was necessary to create a more unified system to group together Venezuela’s progressive media.

“We don’t have a national network for public media, that’s why we should create it, and it should be connected to other networks, such as the community media and international networks”.

He also spoke critically on the content of public media and charged state channels with excluding grassroots voices.

“Sometimes I am watching television and I think, good Lord, is this the most important thing that there is at the moment? … A person who has nothing to say to the country? Why don’t we do programmes with the workers, with self-criticism? It is necessary, that is what nourishes us; we should not be afraid of self-criticism!” he added.

The meeting comes just a week after the socialist president reshuffled his cabinet, seeing his Vice-president replaced by foreign minister Nicolas Maduro and the Minister of Communes also removed from her post to stand in Lara in the country’s upcoming regional elections. The Chavez government has stated that the next six years will be aimed at deepening and radicalising its socialist project and will also be marked by a period of “self-criticism”.

On Saturday, Chavez spoke at length about the Venezuelan transition to socialism, stating that the path to the Bolivarian model is inseparable from a project to deepen the country’s democratic system in “every sphere”.

Although he stated that this transition “must be planned and debated at each step of the way,” he also said that this effort must include a profound transformation of the country’s productive model, which should be democratised both “essentially and substantially”. He also added that this democratisation of the nation’s economic system would be a “determining” factor in the country’s path to socialism.

In other comments the president also pledged that his government would attempt to be more efficient during its next term and ensure that it delivered on promises, as well as increase auditing on social projects.

“We need to step up our level of interaction, communication and coordination,” he said.