Venezuela's 'Bolivarian Circles' Get a Direct Line to President

Jose G. Perez jgperez at
Thu Dec 6 19:35:20 MST 2001 Venezuela's 'Bolivarian Circles' Get a Direct Line to
PresidentVenezuela's 'Bolivarian Circles' Get a Direct Line to President

Populist Program Only Builds Loyalty to Chavez, Critics Say

By Scott Wilson
Washington Post Foreign Service
Tuesday, December 4, 2001; Page A20

NAIGUATA, Venezuela -- They do not look like revolutionaries, the mothers
and grandmothers, waitresses and street sweepers huddled around a sewing
machine, making gingham slippers and cloth baskets for Christmas sweets. But
in a country where decades of machine-run politics snuffed out civic
participation, the act of learning to sew represents a radical and
controversial awakening.

This sewing circle is a "Bolivarian circle," a building block and bulwark of
President Hugo Chavez's social revolution that takes its name from Simon
Bolivar, a native son who liberated much of South America from Spanish rule
in the early 19th century.

Hoping to strengthen his nascent political organization and marginalize
resistant government institutions, Chavez called on supporters earlier this
year to create these circles as lobbying groups that would appeal directly
to him for help financing community programs. The president, whose fervent
populism echoes a distinctly Latin American man-on-horseback style embodied
by Bolivar, would award money for almost anything from loan programs to
individual medical needs brought to him by the circles.

To a Venezuelan elite that has fallen precipitously from its place of
political privilege since Chavez's election three years ago, the circles
smack of Cuban-style revolutionary defense committees, designed to ensure
fealty to the president's populist agenda. But aside from the poster of
guerrilla leader Che Guevara on the wall, ideology rarely enters this room
of swinging light bulbs, plastic furniture and scraps of colored cloth
strewn on the cement floor.

[full story is here:]

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