President Nicolas Maduro and his ministerial team have been criss-crossing Venezuela as part of the “Gobierno de Calle”, or “Street Government”, initiative. The latest stop was in the Andean state of Mérida, situated to the west of Venezuela.
Under the initiative, government ministers travel to Venezuela’s regional states, holding meetings with citizen groups and considering different proposals for regional development. After several days of such meetings, various projects are approved and set in motion.
On Wednesday President Maduro spoke at the close of the Street Government in Mérida, where he announced the approval of 93 public works and projects, and argued that the Street Government was creating a more efficient and participatory form of governance.
“The moment of having an articulated system of government is going to arrive, one that allows for attention to the smallest detail, so that resources really arrive and don’t stay within channels of bureaucracy and corruption,” the president said.
Promoting industrial development
Industry, agriculture, tourism and highway improvement figured prominently among the projects approved for Mérida state.
A plant to treat and bottle mineral water, a shoe and clothing factory, and a cement production complex were all granted financing to boost the industrial development of the Andean entity, whose economy is largely based on agriculture, tourism and services.
Public social works approved included the construction of a “sports court for peace” and the renovation of the region’s schools.
Maduro also highlighted projects aimed to benefit women, such as the incorporation of 623 women in poverty into the Mothers of the Barrio social program, and the construction of a women’s shelter.
Further, the government reports that over 800 women will benefit from the approval of agricultural and tourism projects in the region.
According to Ramón Lobo, a legislator for the governing United Socialist Party of Venezuela (PSUV), the investments announced for Mérida by the central government are more that the total annual budget of the regional Mérida state administration, which is also run by a PSUV governor.
Government officials have lauded the Street Government in Mérida and other regional states as an example of governance with the direct input and participation of the population.
“We’re deployed throughout the whole state, both national and regional government, in alliance with the people’s power…establishing direct mechanisms with the community to advance in the solution of their problems,” Mérida state governor Alexis Ramirez told the press on Tuesday.
This sentiment was shared by some activists during Street Government activities. “We’re very thankful that they [government ministers] are here in our communities; this shows that the president is committed to the people, responding to the people in their own community,” said communal council member Joe Hernandez during a visit by Vice President Jorge Arreaza to his neighbourhood.
However, others criticised the initiative’s practical application, arguing that there was not enough participation in meetings with government representatives, and that the meetings were not well publicised, making it difficult for those interested to attend.
Following a meeting with the Women’s Ministry, activist and volunteer teacher Vanessa Rosales described the event as “disappointing”, explaining that the minister gave a speech while those attending “were not given the chance to intervene”.
Reports received by Venezuelanalysis.com also indicate that a meeting of community doctors with the health minister, Isabel Iturria, resulted in similar dissatisfaction. Only one doctor was allowed to put forward their colleagues’ requests, which included improved working conditions and greater ministerial transparency. According to the reports, the majority of the requests were rejected.
Nevertheless, Maduro expressed hope that through the Street Government his administration will become a “people’s government”, declaring yesterday, “I want to construct a collective system of directing and driving the Bolivarian Revolution”.
With the conclusion of the Street Government in the Andean states of Mérida and Trujillo, the initiative has now covered twelve of the country’s twenty four regional entities. Ministers are currently holding meetings with communities in the states of Lara, Falcon and Yaracuy.