Healthier constitution

January 17, 2013

Perhaps the reason US citizens are not knowledgeable about the US Constitution is because, as Alan Ryan notes, “the least well-off 80 per cent of the population exercises no influence on the policies that emerge from Congress” (“Political absurdities”, Opinion, 3 January). Were the US to adopt a Venezuelan-type constitution, things would clearly be different.

In Education and Social Change in Latin America (a forthcoming book I co-edited with Sara Motta, lecturer at the University of Nottingham), Francisco Dominguez, head of the Centre for Brazilian and Latin American Studies at Middlesex University, describes how the 1999 Bolivarian Constitution of Venezuela, which is “explicitly anti-neoliberal”, “grants the people the right to self-organise in order to make the general will prevail … Millions of hitherto impoverished and excluded Venezuelans have seen their lives thoroughly transformed for the better through a sustained process of socio-economic improvement…but also have been given the constitutional, legal and political means…to become the key subjects of the Bolivarian process in a way which no previous generation of Venezuelan could even dream.”

As Dominguez says, this shift of political power “has wrested the state (and state institutions) from the hands of Venezuela’s oligarchy”, with the country’s vast resources now being put to very different use.

Mike Cole, Emeritus research professor, Bishop Grosseteste University, Lincoln

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