Venezuela's oil revenues are funding the councils
People & Power reports on Hugo Chavez's efforts to foster 'direct democracy' and establish a 'new geometry of power' in Venezuela that will further the revolutionary agenda of his government.

This weekend Venezuelans go to the polls to vote on a major constitutional reform proposed by Chavez that he says is necessary to establish 21st century socialism. 

At the heart of it is a promise to enhance popular power by creating and funding community councils that bypass traditional political structures while providing social services and new opportunities for citizen participation.

Since a Community Council law was passed in 2006, neighbourhood councils have received more than $1.5 billion and increased in number to more than 32,000, according to the government. 

Chavez plans to give the councils $5 billion in
Chavez plans to give the councils $5 billion in 2007, and has proposed that 5 per cent of the national budget go directly to the councils. His aim is 100,000 community councils that can join together into communes, and communes into cities.

Many people in Venezuela are skeptical of these plans and Chavez's efforts to expand direct democracy.

They say Chavez's reform proposals and nurturing of community councils is aimed primarily at consolidating his power, rather than expanding democratic participation.

What does direct democracy really mean in Venezuela?

People & Power's Bob Abeshouse reports on the struggle over political power. 

Watch part one of Power to the People? on YouTube

Watch part two of Power to the People? on YouTube

This episode of People & Power aired from Wednesday November 28, 2007.

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