We as citizens of the United States observe politics from afar and the vast majority of us may participate in the political process only to the extent that we go to the polls once a year to vote. We may endeavor to follow the news accounts of our nation's politics as they unfold, and of the consequences those political actions yield, but we have little power to influence our "democratically" elected officials. Perhaps we write an occasional letter to our senator or representative, but we almost inevitably receive a vague and impersonal response explaining why they will vote in our opposition.

Over the decades, our representative democracy has been systematically undermined and has ultimately failed in preserving the well being of the people of this nation. The system that the founding fathers painstakingly devised in order to best serve the interests and the will of the people has been corrupted and the systems of checks and balances on power that they instituted have been stripped away. Most of us accept this reality as being beyond our control and continue to observe, comment, and complain without aspiring to achieving any real change, without any hope of instituting a new system of governance that would instead take directly into account your views, and the views of your neighbors, and would empower you to make real positive change possible in your communities.

This site will attempt to explore in depth the places in the world where people are successfully bringing about that type of change in the face of similar odds, where an alternate form of democracy, which is called participatory or direct democracy, is taking root. Initiative, referendum & recall, community councils, and grassroots organizing are but a few ways in which direct/participatory democracy is achieving great success around the world.

Our system of representative democracy does not admit the voice of the people into congressional halls, the high courts, or the oval office where our rights and our liberties are being sold out from underneath us. Our local leaders and activists in our communities, and even those local elected officials who may have the best of intentions are for the most part powerless to make real positive change happen in our neighborhoods, towns and villages when there is so much corruption from above.

In places like Venezuela, Argentina, Bolivia, Nicaragua, Ecuador, Brazil, South Africa, India, and the Phillipines, new experiments in grass roots community based governance are taking place. There is much to be learned from these and other examples of participatory democracy from around the world when we try to examine how this grass-roots based governance could begin to take root here in our own country in order to alter our political system so that it might better serve the American people.

In the hope that one day we can become a nation working together as a united people practicing true democracy as true equals, we open this forum…


Sunday, November 30, 2008

REPUBLICA DOMINICANA: Presupuesto Participativa

Buscan consenso presupuesto participativo


Ante el cuestionamiento de definir el Presupuesto Participativo, contestaríamos categóricamente, que no existe una definición única, porque los Presupuestos Participativos varían mucho de un lugar a otro.

Sin embargo, en general, el Presupuesto Participativo es "un mecanismo (o un proceso) Por el cual la población define o contribuye a definir el destino de todo o una parte de los recursos públicos".

Ubiratan de Souza, uno de los primeros responsables del Presupuesto Participativo en Porto Alegre (Brasil) propone una definición más precisa y más teórica que se puede aplicar a la mayoría de los procesos : "El Presupuesto Participativo es un proceso de democracia directa, voluntaria y universal, donde el pueblo puede discutir y decidir sobre el presupuesto y las políticas públicas. El ciudadano no limita su participación al acto de votar para elegir al Ejecutivo o al Parlamento, sino que también decide las prioridades de gastos y controla la gestión del gobierno".

"El Presupuesto Participativo deja de ser un coadyuvante de la política tradicional, para ser protagonista permanente de la gestión pública. Combina la democracia directa con la democracia representativa, una conquista a ser preservada y calificada". De hecho, es una forma de democracia participativa, es decir una combinación de elementos de democracia directa o semi-directa con la democracia representativa.

Esta herramienta de Gestión nace formalmente en 1989 en algunas ciudades brasileñas, particularmente en Porto Alegre. Fuera de Brasil, a partir de 1990, en Montevideo (Uruguay).

Se pueden identificar tres grandes fases en su expansión: la primera (1989-1997) caracterizada por experimentaciones en pocas ciudades; la segunda (1997-2000) por una masificación brasileña, durante la cual más de 130 municipios adoptaron el Presupuesto Participativo; y la tercera (2000 en adelante), por la expansión fuera de Brasil y su diversificación. Actualmente, más de 300 ciudades han adoptado esta modalidad de gestión Pública.

Experiencias de Presupuesto Participativo se dan fundamentalmente en el ámbito de los Municipios. Brasil continúa siendo el principal país en donde ocurren (aproximadamente 80% del total). Los países de la región andina (Perú, Ecuador y más recientemente Bolivia y Colombia) son el segundo gran foco de experiencias.
Sin embargo, se dan también con diferentes niveles de consolidación y en forma puntual, en los demás países de la Región (Argentina, Paraguay, Uruguay, Chile, República Dominicana, Nicaragua, El Salvador y México).

En nuestro país se inicia en el Municipio de Villa González en el año 1998, durante la Gestión del Gobierno Local encabezado por el Lic. Víctor José D’Aza, actual Director Ejecutivo de la FEDOMU.

Pero en la tarde de hoy, en esta "media isla ubicada en el mismo trayecto del sol" nos encontramos en el Municipio de Santo Domingo Este, capital de la Provincia de Santo Domingo, donde la transparencia se manifiesta de manera plena, en este acto de rendición de cuentas a sus munícipes, por parte del Lic. Juan de los Santos Sindico de esta demarcación geográfica, de cómo se han invertido los recursos recibidos en las diferentes prioridades del Municipio.

Es de trascendental importancia que no solo en Santo Domingo Este se haga este ejercicio de transparencia de los recursos recibidos, sino que de acuerdo a lo establecido por la Ley No. 176-07 del Distrito Nacional y los Municipios en su artículo No.236 se use la herramienta del Presupuesto Participativo Municipal.

ITALY: TFF promotes Direct Democracy

Visit the Telematics Freedom Foundation website here: - Editor

Italy: TFF promotes Direct Democracy

Sepp Hasslberger
11th November 2008

The italian-based Telematics Freedom Foundation promotes a more direct and participatory idea of the democratic process.

Some of the immediate targets are

- user-controlled telematics services

- self-management of democratic organizations and

- national and constitutional legislative changes

to support the widespread introduction of software-based democratic interaction.

Direct Democracy or ‘Continuous Democracy’ is promoted through the development of tools (software, methodologies and infrastructure) that make it possible for citizens to continuously discuss and to directly express preferences on important political questions.

A first concrete step to promote this change “on the ground” is the Lista Partecipata per la Democrazia Diretta, an electoral list based in Rome.

Their software for consensus-building, which allows simple democratic discussions and provides easy decision-making procedures is called Rule2gether and it is available under a GPL public license.

A proposed hardware solution to the problem of allowing those who do not have routine internet access to participate is a TV set-top box running free open-source software that would make communications possible. It is called the Freedom Box or Z-Box.

Friday, November 28, 2008

VIETNAM: Legislature Delays Steps Toward Direct Democracy

Vietnam halts election project

Nov 15, 2008

HANOI - COMMUNIST Vietnam's legislature on Saturday put the brakes on a trial plan to allow direct local elections next year, in a last-minute change before closing its autumn session.

The National Assembly instead voted to extend by two years until 2011 the terms of commune and district leaders who were indirectly elected in a process vetted by the Communist Party, a legislator and media reports said.

The original pilot plan, which had been discussed by legislators and outlined in a detailed assembly paper, would have mirrored the village-level elections introduced by neighbouring China 20 years ago.

The original proposal would have seen an April 25 vote next year in which citizens in 385 communes nationwide would have directly elected their people's committee chairperson, a post akin to town mayor.

However, in a last-minute change early on Saturday, lawmakers approved other local government reforms, but scrapped the pilot plan for direct elections at the grassroots level of the Vietnamese political system.

Mr Uong Chu Luu, the assembly's deputy chairman, said the introduction of direct elections and 'the development of direct democracy at the base should be introduced prudently, with appropriate steps'.

With debate finished on the topic, the assembly closed its session.

Vietnam's Communist Party keeps a tight grip on all political activity, both through cells in schools and workplaces and through the Fatherland Front, an umbrella group for mass organisations such as farmers' and youth unions.

Decision making in Vietnam has long been top-down, with missives spread through loudspeakers and mass mobilisation campaigns that inform people about party edicts on everything from new farm techniques to family planning.

The new pilot project had been proposed a decade after the ruling party issued its so-called Grassroots Democracy decree, which outlined ways to expand citizens' participation, oversight and transparency in local government.

That decree - summed up by the party slogan 'people know, people discuss, people do, people supervise' - was meant to help defuse local grievances following outbreaks of rural unrest in northern Thai Binh province in 1997.

In recent years, amid Vietnam's rapid industrialisation, the number of land disputes has risen in rural areas, with farmers commonly accusing local officials of corruption and taking their land without adequate compensation. -- AFP

BOLIVIA: Conferencia Internacional de Democracia Participativa en La Paz

Arranca la Conferencia Internacional de Democracia Participativa en La Paz


La Paz, 19 Nov (Erbol).- Arrancó este miércoles en la ciudad de La Paz la 8va Conferencia Internacional de Democracia Participativa con la participación de 250 ciudades de los cuatro continentes.

El evento se denomina "Interculturalidad y Participación Ciudadana, Modelos de Inclusión" bajo la organización del Observatorio Internacional de Participación Ciudadana. Hasta este viernes se realizarán mesas redondas, debates, intercambio de experiencias, de generación de mecanismos de diálogo con las conclusiones respectivas.

En la inauguración participaron: el comisionado de la Alcaldía para Participación Ciudadana del Ayuntamiento de Barcelona, Ramón Nicolao, el ministro de Educación, Roberto Aguilar, además del anfitrión Juan Del Granado, alcalde de La Paz.

Por qué La Paz

Ramón Nicolao explicó que este evento se realiza anualmente y que para este año se eligió a la ciudad de La Paz por haber propuesto el tema de la interculturalidad en la participación ciudadana.

"Otro motivo es que La Paz tiene una experiencia de Observatorio Local de Democracia Participativa que ha publicado algunos estudios y documentaciones que a muchos otros países nos ha llamado la atención, nos gustaban, nos parecían interesantes", dijo Nicolao.

Precisó que la democracia ya está consolidada en los países con electos escogidos democráticamente por periodos de 4 a 5 años; sin embargo esto no es suficiente, el paso siguiente es conseguir sistemas de enriquecimiento de esta democracia por la vía participativa.

"Es decir que los ciudadanos, que votan cada cuatro o cinco años, sean consultados nuevamente durante la realización de este mandato mediante consejos de participación donde están incluidas las organizaciones y todos los sectores sobre lo que ellos consideran necesario para la ciudad y para comunidad", dijo Nicolao.


El evento debatirá temas como la participación ciudadana, la propuesta intercultural en procesos educativos, la construcción de una institucionalidad democrática intercultural y la pluralidad en términos culturales de género y de participación.

Cada año 250 ciudades de todo el mundo, América, Europa, Asia, África se reúnen para reflexionar sobre cómo se está mejorando la democracia participativa, los distintos consejos sectoriales, consejos ciudadanos, consejos de barrio

Explicó que el tema de la interculturalidad es bastante importante porque se puede unir los procesos de participación con una realidad cada vez más presentes en muchas de las ciudades.

"Es un hecho importante que en la misma comunidad, en el mismo territorio residan personas que tengan identidades culturales distintas y que conviven porque el territorio es el mismo y la voluntad de mejora de la población es para todo el conjunto, no sólo para un grupo sino para todos", dijo Nicolao.

Seguir aprendiendo

Por su parte el alcalde Juan Del Granado, a tiempo de destacar la presencia de invitados de distintas partes del mundo, explicó que en el municipio de La Paz existe el Observatorio Local de la Democracia Participativa cuyo espacio sirve para democratizar el ejercicio del poder público y las oportunidades para acceder a los espacios de la decisión.

Señaló que en estos dos días los cerca de 500 participantes, representantes vecinales, de las organizaciones, Comité de Vigilancia y ciudadanía en general que se inscribieron debatirán los niveles de la democracia participativa y el tema de interculturalidad.

"Vamos a tener la gran oportunidad de conocer las experiencias de prácticamente cinco continentes en lo que es la democracia participativa, es una oportunidad excepcional para seguir aprendiendo, para seguir recogiendo lo que es una línea de trabajo especialmente significativa en el espacio local", dijo Del Granado.

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

CANADA: New Brunswick Green Party Gains Momentum with Platform of Participatory Democracy

Green Party sets its roots for 2010

Published Monday November 17th, 2008
Mike Milligan acclaimed as interim leader at founding convention
A4by dwayne tingley
times & transcript staff

Mike Milligan called it an historic day and he expects politics in New Brunswick to never be the same.

New Brunswick's Green Party took its first steps toward fielding a full slate of 55 candidates for the next provincial election in 2010 Saturday at its founding convention at the Université de Moncton student centre.

The day-long convention attracted about 30 participants and 22 voting delegates who unanimously acclaimed Milligan, a 51-year-old small businessman from Shediac River, as its interim leader.

"This is grassroots democracy," said Milligan, who operates a motorcycle shop in Moncton.

"For years, it has been obvious the existing political parties have not been listening to the people, but the Green Party offers participatory democracy, where everyone has a say and the people speak for the government."

Delegates spent most of day debating and ratifying the party's constitution, which includes bylaws covering everything from how their leader will be chosen to how members will be notified of upcoming meetings.

The party expects to hold its first leadership convention next spring. Until then, efforts will be made to organize associations in each of the province's 55 ridings.

Milligan, who was the Green candidate in the federal riding of Beausejour in the recent federal election and collected almost 3,200 votes, said the party has a solid foundation and predicted it will continue to grow.

"We got 22,000 votes (about seven per cent) in New Brunswick in the last federal election so people are hearing our message," Milligan said.

"We've been well-represented in southern New Brunswick, but we have to be better organized in the northern part of the province," he said. "We're hoping more people step forward and help us out now that we have had our first convention and things are coming together."

The party also elected its first executive at the meeting and long-time director of Conservation Council of New Brunswick Janice Harvey of Waweig, near St. Stephen, was chosen president.

Francoise Aubin of Dieppe and Stephanie Coburn of Sussex will serve as vice-presidents while Pierre Roy of Moncton will be the secretary and Leona Davies of Fredericton will be treasurer.

Executive members at-large are: Art Hacking of Memramcook, Beth Stymiest of Riverview, Marco Morency of Moncton, Mathieu Bourgeois of Moncton and Mary Ann Coleman of Waterford, near Sussex.

VENEZUELA: Direct Democracy - The Case of the Consejos Comunales

Venezuelan Direct Democracy – The case of the Consejos Comunales

November 21st 2008, by Michael Albert and Adam Gill - ZNet

In 2004, Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez created a movement named the consejos comunales (communal councils) aimed at creating more responsive local governance by handing local budgetary and legislative power to the councils. This movement was seen by Chavez as one of the most important of the five motors of the ‘Bolivarian Revolution' in that they should influence policy from the grassroots upwards. Great interest in the councils was evident between 2004 and 2007 in that thousands formed quickly and $5 Billion was given to them during this period. Communal banks are a pre-requisite to receiving funds from the government so as to avoid clientalistic relationships of dependency.

Local councils have the power to vote on issues directly affecting their community and have used this to make significant changes. Major improvements have included building social housing and repairing roads. The local councils are formed with 200-400 families with members aged 15 and above and have an executive council and representatives of groups within the community.

I asked Michael Albert if he might be able to offer his opinion on this movement in Venezuela.


What do you feel the role of the Communal Councils is strategically and politically?

Well, I believe they are partly intended, in the present, to push forward the whole revolutionary process by increasing current participation, raising consciousness, etc.

But I also believe that for a great many folks in Venezuela, both inside and outside the government, the councils are the evolving infrastructure of a new polity. The idea is that people should govern their own lives, and in that context local councils are the proposed vehicle for doing it. As such, they are intended to become an alternative to rather than just being an adjunct to local governments of mayors and governors and the like.

Would you say the councils have created social change or more that their energies are being pulled in other directions?

I don't feel very equipped to answer this question, and I am not entirely sure, in any case, what you mean by "other directions." I can judge only from a very great difference and based on talks with only a limited number of people what the councils are up to.

My impression, and it is tentative, is that the councils are a vast and evolving experiment and project, by no means final in form and by no means fully up to speed, but coming along, though many problems still exist. First, for example, there is a population which - like our population in the U.S - has almost zero experience prior to this experiment with serious democracy much less participatory self management. So the councils and their members are learning in practice, and for many people that has ups and downs. But second, and less benign, there are obstacles as well having to do not only with past habits or current doubts, but also with real opposition, as in local governing and corporate elites not wanting this experiment to work.

Venezuela seems to me to be uniquely seeking a gigantic revolution in structures and relations - not just economically but also politically, socially, culturally - all non violently and even without much confrontation, none provoked by the agents of change. That is historically ambitious, to say the least.

So in one corner you have corporate media continuing, and corporate ownership in many realms, and governors and mayors and whatnot from the prior history of the country, all also still in place, nearly all still hoping to resurrect that prior history. In the other corner you have the Bolivarian activists, and Chavez, and a large proportion of the non elite population, instead trying to escape that past into something fundamentally new.

Venezuala is, in other words, a daily economic, political, social, and cultural cauldron of experiment and opposition - and thus a site of intense struggle. Or that is how I see Venezuela, at any rate, and in that context the local communal councils are partly a tool of the struggle but are also partly seeds of a new future being built in the present.

Should Communal Councils be free of political party influence?

This depends, I think, on what you mean by party influence. So, for example, it wouldn't make sense to say there should be no party influence. Imagine a council with people in it, of course. Some people are in one party, some people are in another party. The parties they are in influence those people's desires (and vice versa). The people then bring their desires to the councils, so through their members the parties influence the councils as well. That much is fine, in my view. It would make no sense to say that shouldn't occur.

So, for example, there are councils in communities that are very Bolivarian, and they have views and aims quite like those of the Bolivarian revolution. There are other councils in communities that are opposed to Bolivarian projects, and those councils reflect those opposition views. The parties are in part carriers of the views and the people form parties, in turn, influence the councils.

On the other hand, I think you might mean should parties as entities be able to themselves direct or otherwise impact councils, other than by the fact of their members indirectly doing so. Here I think the answer is no, they should not be able to do that.

Your question is a bit like asking, in the U.S., should local government (just imagine, for the sake of the discussion, that it was actually grassroots and participatory) be in any way at all subject to instruction or control by political parties (other than being impacted by the local members of the community who happen to be in parties)? Well, of course it shouldn't, and ditto for Venezuela. A party should impact councils simply by impacting the population that composes the councils, but not by some sort of collective or structural authority.

Do you think that party influence and political movements still operate as clients of central governments?

I am not sure I understand this question. In Venezuela, at present, the Bolivarian revolution is very much a manifestation of the ideas and will of President Chavez. We might prefer that the movement had bubbled up, instead, from the population, and that Chavez was merely one among many carriers of their intentions - but that isn't the case. In fact, Chavez is constantly trying to impact what the population thinks and wants, not just to hear from it. The government is not only administering Venezuela, as it is seeking to use state power as a tool to build social involvement and activism. It is very unusual, of course.

So in that context, the recently created revolutionary party Chavez is in is certainly affected greatly by him, as are the social movements whose members typically consider him a repository of valuable ideas and plans, as is the government. Again, this is arguably not an optimal picture, and it is certainly an unusual one - a president seeking to build movements that will replace authorities, including the old government structures, including himself - at least that's the current agenda - throughout the country - but that is what is happening, or so it seems to me, from my admittedly limited contact.

Can the Communal Councils in your opinion, become the only form of local government in Venezuela? What obstacles do you perceive to be happening now and possibly in the future?

I certainly think that is possible, and that that is the goal, not just conceivable, at least in many people's minds, including in the relevant political ministries. I sat in offices and heard them explain their hopes for these councils becoming the seat of governing power throughout the country, describing the 50,000 councils that were needed - with about 30,000 currently formed - and describing the gains in confidence and methods also needed within the councils, and explaining that yes, these would be above majors and governors and even the President. So, yes, having them be the primary locus of government power is the aim. Might that aim be swept aside as a goal? Sure, it might. But it also might come true as a reality.

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

BRASIL: Video do Movimento da Democracia Direta

Segunda Turma MCR-MCD Brasília

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

VENEZUELA: The Struggle Continues

The following article dicusses some of the stumbling blocks in the process of bringing participatory democracy to Venezuela, while recognizing that the country is slowly advancing the transition of power and control of resources to the people. - Editor

Sounds of Venezuela: Part 8
Grass Roots Democracy

by Ron Ridenour / October 25th, 2008


Participatory democracy: people actively organizing in the communities and attending meetings where local issues are discussed and solutions are proposed and voted on—is a major element of the Bolivarian Revolution. By August 2007, 2.2 million citizens were organized in 25,000 community councils (CC). In February 2008, community councils, their elected spokespersons and municipal officials and advisors engaged in lively meetings to evaluate progress and lay a course for the future. These meetings were followed by gatherings of two of the three largest and most important political parties backing this process: the new PSUV and Venezuela’s oldest, the Communist Party (PCV). I attended some of these events.

In Las Mercedes district, where I lived, nearly 100 members of five CCs gathered at a local hall. A large majority were women, mostly 40 years old and over. They met to consolidate their social organizing and take a position on a structural change proposal. Direct participation had allowed each CC to take individual directions but this was leading to a bit of chaos: differences in how to use resources, what programs took priority, which CC should house the local bank that distributes the funds allocated for community councils. Most of these funds come from the federal government, some from municipalities. These authorities were proposing that the structure be changed to accommodate a bit of centralization and control, which could lead to greater effectiveness.

I was surprised and impressed with how people openly complained about the failure of the municipal government to disseminate adequate information and provide basic training for community leadership and organizers, and about how people’s admiration for Chavez did not hinder several in objecting to the new proposal. A few rose in opposition to the mancomunidades proposal, which would bring several CCs inside an umbrella body that would work with authorities from “above” the individual CCs, as some viewed this.

“There is nothing in the law under which community councils operate that mandates such a direction,” said one opponent. “On the contrary, it speaks of direct power, and resources going directly to each council. Some of the municipal advisors are saying things here that is not the law, nor what Chavez has said.”

Another man spoke sharply from the podium:

“We lack training. We lack information from our local leaders. Some do not know how to manage administratively, either our projects or the moneys allocated. Too many of us are still driven by egoism. We have to learn how to motivate our councils, the spokespersons and our neighbors.”

The issue of where the bank administering CC funds should be located led to a hefty debate. The majority wished to move it from the CC where it was, because that council was not active and there was suspicion that the funds were not well utilized. Representatives from one council said the money they should have received was not forthcoming.

Solutions to these matters would be decided upon at another round of meetings and after street debate.

That evening I attended a local PSUV meeting. The main topic was the current round of CC meetings and the issue of mancomunidades. The general attitude among these one dozen members, mostly over 45 years old, was that “a small group tried to sabotage the assembly”, as the chairman characterized the protest. Not all were caught up in heavy-handed terminology and limited condemnations, and some saw the need to struggle internally to solve significant problems not being addressed by their local government. Among those was the lack of caring and adequate medical treatment at the hospital, which was raised by a retired doctor who volunteers at the local hospital.

After the meeting, five of us went to a café to imbibe in national brews. They asked my opinion on a variety of issues, and what did I see as the number one problem within the revolutionary process. I hesitated to render conclusions after such a short time observing, but they insisted. My spontaneous answer was: the lack of follow through.

Everyone agreed. Example after example plopped onto the wobbly table. I presented one and asked their opinion about the cause. I recalled what a young taxi driver had told me. As a supporter of the Chavez government, Gabriel had applied to take a Francisco Miranda course in Cuba. The idea behind this mission is to create a civilian cadre, which would form a military reserve for defense. The volunteers were often sent to Cuba to acquire a political understanding of revolution and some discipline. So far about 3000 had participated. My driver told me that when he returned from three months “enjoying the generous hospitality of Cubans, not the least the women”, there was nothing to incorporate into, there was no follow up at home. What little he considered he had learned in the brother nation he had forgotten with disuse. Gabriel was so disgruntled he said he would not vote for Rosa León again, albeit mayors have nothing to do with this mission.

Yes, that was all too familiar, the PSUV activists replied. “Lack of infrastructure; most people look after self-interests; some generals don’t want an independent militia; too much talk-not enough action.”

I encountered the same problem with the voceros. At the weekly meeting for all spokespersons of the more than 100 CCs, 17 showed up. They spoke about problems in advancing some projects, about too many activists meeting late or abstaining, problems balancing family, a job and volunteer work. One of the agenda items was an invitation for me to hold a lecture-seminar about communication, how to better reach people in the neighborhoods.

Many spoke enthusiastically about the need for learning. I could also offer advice about a newsletter soon to be launched. Agreement was reached on a day session with lunch and a date set. I prepared for this important initiative. I heard nothing in the week to come. The day before the event, I phoned the municipality’s paid coordinator of the voceros. Oh, he said evenly, no one arranged anything. He did not understand my disappointment and dismay of the frivolous manner of unfulfilling decisions.

Why is making a revolution so difficult?

Ah, imagine your neighbor Sarah. She gets her news from the national and international corporate media. She does what pleases her. If she doesn’t see the fun in doing something she doesn’t do anything. Yeah, we know a lot like her. It might even ring a bell inside. So, what does it take to have Sarah change into a person who wants to cooperate with many others, taking her time, using her energy to create something new, something great for everybody, if everybody works at it? Just what are the tools we need—mental and spiritual as well as physical and emotional ones—and how do we develop them? That is not so easy to conceive let alone practice and transform society in a few years, right?

Already, through the energy generated by the mass behind the committed leadership, wonders have been created. Alongside those I’ve portrayed earlier in these writings, is an essential and historical one. Vicente Vallenilla, the Venezuelan ambassador to Denmark, told me before I departed for his homeland:

“We say that what is happening now is real sovereignty, and for the first time in our history. We are taking our natural resources into our own hands. We are transforming from the sole objective of profit-making for a few to greater distribution of the wealth, commonly created, replacing the raw materialism of today with a more spiritual life tomorrow, one of sovereignty and independence, of wholeness in fellowship and, thus, happiness.”

Friday, November 14, 2008

PERU: Asamblea Nacional de los Pueblos



Dirigentes y delegados de organizaciones sociales, sindicales, campesinas, políticas y de diversos sectores ciudadanos, convencidos de la necesidad de construir la gran unidad del pueblo peruano para lograr los grandes cambios que el país demanda, nos hemos autoconvocado ... (sigue)

... para dar nacimiento al proceso de organización de la Asamblea Nacional de los Pueblos, concebida como un espacio amplio y plural, de profundo contenido democrático y protagonismo ciudadano en la formulación y aplicación de políticas de Estado.

La Asamblea Nacional de los Pueblos surge como una necesidad frente a la crisis del Estado y a la “democracia” deformada, restringida y excluyente que ejercitan los sectores dominantes. La verdadera democracia es integral: Social, económica y política; es representativa, participativa, descentralista, sujeta al control ciudadano. Tal democracia está por hacerse, tan igual como la justicia social, la igualdad de derechos y oportunidades para todos, el reconocimiento de los pueblos originarios y minorías étnicas, asume y fortalece el protagonismo de los jóvenes, la igualdad de género, la plena soberanía nacional; en suma, la equidad en la distribución de la riqueza y en la conducción del Estado para garantizar el desarrollo sostenible y bienestar para las mayorías.

La Asamblea Nacional de los Pueblos se plantea también como respuesta al desvergonzado entreguismo del gobierno actual, su creciente tendencia autoritaria y prepotente, su indeclinable sometimiento a las trasnacionales y los poderosos del país; además de su corrupción sin límite ni control. Ello exige proponer alternativas prontas y firmes, que sólo pueden surgir de los ciudadanos concientes de sus responsabilidades, organizados, unidos, dispuestos a hacerse oír y respetar.

La Asamblea Nacional de los Pueblos representa un reto para millones de peruanos que son víctimas del injusto modelo económico y no aceptan la prepotencia, ni la intolerancia; que quieren ser actores de su presente y su futuro, que sueñan con una Patria libre, digna, solidaria y soberana, y anhelan un nuevo régimen económico, social y político. Sin renunciar a la democracia representativa, depurándola de sus elementos corrosivos, y apoyándose en la lucha social y política, la Asamblea Nacional de los Pueblos se propone dar curso a la democracia participativa y directa, como expresiones genuinas del principio “el poder emana del pueblo” y del verdadero cambio que ello exige.

En ella caben los hombres y mujeres de buena voluntad con sed de justicia y de Patria, de todos los credos y culturas, de las organizaciones sociales, sindicales y políticas nacionales, regionales y locales comprometidas con el cambio, de las comunidades campesinas y nativas, de las rondas campesinas, de las minorías étnicas, de organizaciones de emprendedores, micro, pequeños y medianos empresarios, comerciantes, productores del campo y de la ciudad, de los movimientos regionales descentralistas, estudiantes de todos los niveles, profesionales, trabajadores de la cultura, de la investigación y de la ciencia, de la intelectualidad y de la prensa crítica, de los movimientos de mujeres y de jóvenes, de las iglesias vinculadas a los pobres, identificados todos con el cambio social que el pueblo peruano demanda.

Buscamos que la Asamblea nazca del pueblo, se nutra de sus luchas y tradiciones, y le sirva como una poderosa herramienta de cambios, de defensa y de conquista de derechos. Queremos constituirla para defender el derecho al pan y al trabajo, a la educación, salud y seguridad social para todos; el derecho a la organización, la participación y el control ciudadano sobre las autoridades; así como a un medio ambiente sano, protegido y equilibrado.

Llamamos a todos los que aspiran a vida digna y solidaria a incorporarse a este proceso unitario y los convocamos este 08 de noviembre a sesión de instalación donde se elegirá la correspondiente Comisión Organizadora de la Asamblea Nacional de los Pueblos, en la perspectiva de forjar una amplia unidad por un nuevo régimen económico y social y por una democracia verdadera para todos.

Otro Perú es posible. Ese es el sentido de la historia por escribir con la acción protagónica de las mayorías excluidas y los sectores olvidados.

¡La Asamblea Nacional de los Pueblos inicia su Marcha!, ¡Nadie la detendrá!



La Asamblea de la ANP se realizará en: Local de la Federación de Trabajadores En construcción Civil del Perú, sito en Prolongación Cangallo Nº 670 – La Victoria. A partir de las 10.00 a.m. del día sábado 8 de noviembre del 2008.

Enviado el viernes, 07 de noviembre a las 04:04:00 por unidadlatinoamerica

Participatory Democracy for Social and Ecological Justice

Sharing insights on a range of issues



PRIOR to the meeting of Asian and European leaders in the Chinese capital for the Asia-Europe Meeting (ASEM) on Oct 24 and 25, more than 500 people from key grassroots, activist networks, and non-governmental organisations from Asia and Europe gathered at a three-day forum themed “For Social and Ecological Justice” here.

Since 1996, the Asia-Europe People’s Forum (AEPF) has been held every two years, normally before the ASEM, and AEPF participants gather to discuss a range of issues, exchange views and share insights.

For the Seventh Asia-Europe People’s Forum, the discussions were organised in three clusters: peace and security; social and economic rights and environmental justice; and participatory democracy and human rights.

With the onset of the current global financial crisis, the forum’s delegates called for a re-design of the global financial system, saying that Europe and Asia should take the initiative.

“So, once again we stand at a historical moment in a sombre mood, surveying the wreckage of crises that are both long-term and of immediate consequence; of crises that are both structural and conjunctural; of crises that demand not cosmetic reforms but a deep-rooted and sustainable transformation of how we shape the global order,’’ said Klang Parliamentarian Charles Santiago, one of the speakers at the forum’s opening ceremony.

Santiago: ‘Developing countries like China, India and Brazil could lead the world in re-setting a new financial rchitecture.’ — By Celeste Fong
Santiago, who is also director of Monitoring Sustainability of Globalisation, called for ASEM leaders to tell the global community from Europe and Asia that the unfettered deregulation of markets has to stop!

“Developing countries like China, India and Brazil could lead the world in re-setting a new financial architecture,” he added.

In his speech, he said govern ments, regional organisations, and international institutions like the IMF and World Bank have “all scrambled in unseemly haste to bail out their benefactors through subsidies for the rich.

“How ironic that the ‘free markets’ are today totally dependent on state intervention.

“The capitalist state is fulfilling its historic task of providing all the necessary guarantees for the survival of property.”

What is peculiar about the 2008 financial crisis, said Santiago, is that it is taking place alongside a food, energy and ecological crisis.

“It humbled the world’s economic super powers. They are asking developing countries like China to help solve the credit crisis through coordinated interest rate cuts,” he said.

China’s recent move to cut interest rates twice in three weeks is widely seen as part of a global collaboration to counter the crisis and an important contribution to the rest of the world.

Heidi Hautala, an experienced Green politician and a member of the Finnish Parliament, told the forum that the whole world is now feeling the consequences of an unprecedented collapse of the financial system.

“AEPF has consequently promoted the replacement of blind pro-market policies by alternative people-centred policies,” she said.

“We noted in Helsinki that ASEM countries control over half of the world’s gross national product. Thus, ASEM could be a key mechanism to lead the world on a sustainable path.

“To us, it is very clear that ASEM can only succeed if civil society gets access to it.’’

At the opening ceremony, Chinese Foreign Minister Yang Jiechi voiced his hope that the forum would play a positive role in promoting people-to-people exchanges and cooperation between Asia and Europe and in pushing forward the ASEM process.

“It (the forum) will also make a unique contribution to maintaining world peace, stability and prosperity and promoting human progress and development,’’ he said.

Yang said the recent turbulence in the international financial market has dealt a blow to the world economy and aroused the concern of the entire international community.

“No country in the world can expect to stay away from such issues as global warming, environmental degradation, resource shortage and the increasingly grave international economic and financial situation or address them on one’s own.”

After the three-day discussions, the AEPF called for a fresh policy agenda to address economic policies which take into consideration ordinary people, human rights and the environment.

The AEPF’s final declaration, including the call for a broadened agenda like governance and human rights issues, environmental sustainability and people-centred development, would be passed to the ASEM meeting which began on Friday.

Besides Santiago, who is also a member of the international organising committee of the AEPF, other Malaysian participants included Monash University School of Arts and Sciences lecturer Wong Chin Huat, PAS’ Capt Muhd Alimin Aziz, MBPJ councillor S. Ramakrishnan and other representatives from Malaysian NGOs.

Thursday, November 13, 2008

SOUTH KOREA: Building Organizations for Participatory Society

Civic groups unite to address broad range of social issues

movement that grew out of the candlelight protests responds to the ‘crisis in democracy and the people’s welfare’


» Representatives of civic organizations and opposition parties discuss the formation of a new organization to address political and social issues at the People’s Solidarity for Participatory Democracy on October 9.
A solidarity organization representing the country’s progressives is being formed to carry on “the candlelight spirit.”
Representatives of civic and social movement groups like the People’s Solidarity for Participatory Democracy and Jinbo Corea, the umbrella union Korean Confederation of Trade Unions (KCTU, Minju Nochong), and the Democratic, Democratic Labor and New Progressive parties gathered at PSPD for an “emergency meeting” to agree on the formation of what will tentatively be called the “New Solidarity Organization for Democracy and the People’s Welfare” (Minminyeon). Organizers say they will officially kick-off preparations for the umbrella group on October 25 with the formation of a preparatory committee.

“Democracy and the people’s welfare have been in complete crisis since the start of the administration of President Lee Myung-bak,” said organizers at a press conference. “Laborers, farmers, netizens, intellectuals and political parties will come together to overcome this crisis with the New Solidarity Organization.”

Explaining the decision to include political parties, organizers, said it was made “in respect to the principle that we are going to seek very wide-ranging solidarity” and that parties might be included as having “observer” or other status.

The process that has led to the formation of Minminyeon runs parallel to the candlelight protests and the way the politics surrounding them dominated the political landscape.

“The ‘candlelight,’ that symbol of democracy, fell into difficulty when crushed by the Lee administration,” said Kim Min-yeong, PSPD’s secretary general. “Discussion about forming a solidarity organization originated in a sense of crisis, one that saw the crisis in democracy as directly related to the disastrous state of the people’s welfare.”

Civil society “elders” Paek Nak-chung, professor emeritus at Seoul National University, Park Won-soon of the Hope Institute and others met on September 24 and proposed a “consultative body that is organized with groups involved in a wide range of social movements.” The resulting organization was going to be a gathering of civil society groups that have felt the need for something like Minminyeon, Internet activists who were behind much of what became the candlelight protests, and a wide ranging scope of progressive political elements.

Part of the impetus for Minminyeon is the realization that there were going to be limits to what the People’s Countermeasure Council against Mad Cow Disease could do as an organization over the long term.

“We kept saying to ourselves that we needed an organization that could respond to the crisis in democracy and the people’s welfare, one that was more encompassing and went beyond the task force,” said Park Won-seok, the head of the task force’s “situation room.”

“We came to agree that we needed to be inclusive of all forces that share a consensus, including the labor movement and netizens,” said Park, adding that Minminyeon was the “broadest form of solidarity.”

Representatives of the groups present for the preparatory meeting adopted a declaration at the same “emergency meeting” October 9. “Each organization participating will respect each other’s diversity and act in solidarity where common responses are required,” it said.

“It was decided that we work with political parties because we are confident civil society forces have a leading role to play,” said Park Won-seok. “We believe that we can bring about change in the political situation as a whole, in the local government and National Assembly elections coming in 2010 and on to the presidential election, through solidarity and a loosely organized network.”

Whether Minminyeon will be able to overcome the differences among the groups that were part of the task force on mad cow disease remains to be seen. Minminyeon already encompasses a diverse range of groups and approaches, from those that want to adopt an“anti-dictatorship stance” to those that insist on an “loosely organized network.” Organizers say the differences will be overcome with the principle that issues will be decided “from the bottom up.”

“We have to organize quickly so that we can move together and decide how intense we are going to be, since the welfare crisis is so serious,” said one organizer.

Please direct questions or comments to []

ITALIA: No Dal Molin - Vicenza


lunedì 27 Ottobre 2008 (01h03) :

La Coperativa Costruttori Cementisti e quella dei Muratori Cementisti hanno vinto l’appalto per costruire la base: 150 vicentini in delegazione alla Conferenza nazionale delle Coop per dire ai soci: state con noi. Il testo dell’appello in allegato all’articolo

Di Mariano Trevisan, Prc di Vicenza e movimento no dal Molin Dopo il successo della consultazione popolare, dove in una sola giornata ben 24.000 cittadini di Vicenza si sono espressi contro la costruzione della nuova base USA al Dal Molin, il movimento si rimette in marcia con tutta la forza che lo ha contraddistinto per più di due anni. Una serie di iniziative pressoché giornaliere che dureranno un mese e che avranno il loro apice con la programmazione di uno sciopero generale della città di Vicenza.

Come prima iniziativa il popolo delle “pignatte” oggi 25 ottobre è andato a fare “visita” alla Conferenza Nazionale delle Coop. tenutasi nella città di Parma, dove centinaia di soci coop provenienti da tutta Italia erano presenti. Tema del convegno “Rapporto fra struttura, etica e dimensione”, perché da tempo queste organizzazioni sono diventate sempre più industrie e sempre meno cooperative.

Molti si chiederanno quali sono le motivazioni che ci hanno spinti ad andare a questo congresso, lo scopo è presto detto: la Coperativa C.C.C. (Coperativa costruttori cementisti) e la C.M.C. (Coperativa muratori cementisti) sono le due ditte che hanno vinto l’appalto per costruire la nuova Base a Vicenza. Allora quale motivo migliore se non andare a Parma per cercare di toccare le corde sensibili dei soci Coop? Questi soci dovrebbero essere la parte più attenta alle tematiche di guerra e alle basi militari straniere.

Alle sei del mattino, una delegazione di 150 persone in rappresentanza dei 24.000 vicentini contrari alla base, con 3 pullman si sono recati al convegno suddetto, con bandiere, striscioni, volantini e video sull’area del Dal Molin. Abbiamo parlato con moltissimi soci Coop. che si sono mostrati attenti alle nostre proposte e moralmente scossi di come anche le Coop. quando si tratta di fare denari mettano in un angolo l’etica e i suoi sani principi.

Siamo riusciti a concordare che tutti i 150 componenti del No Dal Molin entrassero al convegno e che uno di noi leggesse un comunicato affinché i tanti soci facciano pressione sulla C.C.C e sulla C.M.C. Lo stesso comunicato lo abbiamo inoltrato al gruppo Consigliare Regionale del PRC dell’Emilia Romagna dove il nostro partito è in maggioranza affinché sia messo ai voti e, se approvato anche il Consiglio Regionale dichiari la propria contrarietà a questo appalto e alla costruzione della nuova base USA al Dal Molin.

Ai falsi profeti che vanno dicendo che la nostra è una battaglia fatta contro i mulini a vento voglio solamente ricordare che: i lavori della Base dovevano partire secondo il Commissario Governativo Paolo Costa nel settembre 2006, ad ottobre 2008 la Ederle 2 non è ancora partita e vi posso garantire che non molleremo un millimetro, a furia di paletti, manifestazioni, ricorsi, blocchi stradali e consultazioni, siamo riusciti, noi, piccola armata brancaleone ad ostacolare i progetti della più grande nazione del mondo; gli Stati Uniti d’America.

Vicenza, 25 Ottobre 2008

Di : Vicenza
lunedì 27 Ottobre 2008

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

SPAIN: Participatory Budgeting Advances

New methodology to improve participatory democracy

nächste Meldung 07.11.2008

Researchers from the Decision Analysis and Statistics Group within the Department of Artificial Intelligence at the Universidad Politécnica de Madrid’s School of Computing have developed a methodology for improving participatory democracy that could be ready for the Spain’s next local elections due to be held in 2011.

Over 240 Spanish municipalities had a go at participatory budgeting in 2004, and it is estimated that by 2010 citizens will be helping to decide how to allocate 10% of the municipal budget. Until now, though, these participatory budgeting experiences have been carried through without the software to gather citizens’ opinions in real time and then clearly display their preferences as charts on politicians’ computers.

Organizing opinion via the Internet

The School of Computing’s research group, composed of computer scientists, mathematicians and statisticians, has developed this methodology using new technologies, particularly the Internet, as support for organizing and optimizing citizen participation. The methodology is now two-thirds complete and could be applied on the scale of either a municipality or a whole country.

The aim of this methodology is to add citizens’ preferences to political decision-making processes. This it does by establishing a number of questions that citizens answer over the Internet. Duly converted to statistical values, these responses indicate citizens’ opinions on the decision to be taken by politicians in the shape of a chart. A code system prevents people not on the electoral roll from participating.

The methodology represents participants’ beliefs and preferences, evaluating the different budget alternatives based on Dempster and Shafer’s evidential reasoning and ranking the alternatives using a notion of distance from maximum and minimum utility.

Participatory Democracy

Participatory budgeting is shifting the idea of democracy from representation, where citizens’ preferences are taken into account at election time only, to direct participation and discussion. This is an attempt at giving citizens a say in the decision on how to spend part of their municipality’s budget.

The Decision Analysis and Statistics Research Group has collaborated and is now actively participating in several research projects focusing on the development of software tools targeting e-democracy and, especially, participatory budgeting.

They include TED: Towards Electronic Democracy, funded by the European Science Foundation (2003/06); eDemocracia: Apoyo a la Toma de Decisiones Complejas Basadas en Internet (e-Democracy: Internet-based Complex Decision-Making Support), funded by the Spanish Ministry of Science and Innovation (2004/07); Conceptos y Sistemas de Apoyo a la Democracia Electrónica (Electronic Democracy Concepts and Support Systems), funded through Madrid Regional Government’s IV PRICIT (2006/09); and Toma de Decisiones en Grupo con Imprecisión (Imprecise Group Decision Making), funded by the Ministry of Science and Innovation (2008/2011).

Monday, November 10, 2008

BRASIL: EUA: Democracia Participativa

EUA: Democracia Participativa

Os Estados Unidos promoveram cerca de 150 referendos locais, aproveitando o embalo das eleições gerais. E nós?

07 Nov 2008 - 00h15min


A eleição de Barack Obama atraiu uma maior atenção do mundo para o sistema eleitoral americano. Apesar de falho em termos de organização e, por isso, vulnerável à fraude, o processo eleitoral americano é rico em termos de mecanismo de participação, na medida em que combina democracia indireta ou representativa, com democracia direta, proporcionando o que se convencionou chamar de democracia participativa.

Tirar lições do processo eleitoral americano é importante não apenas para se conferir a solidez dos fundamentos políticos que embasam essa nação - assim como as falhas merecedoras de correção em seu arcabouço institucional -, mas, sobretudo, como fator de inspiração para as democracias que vieram após a constituição dos Estados Unidos da América.

De uma forma geral, o Brasil tem muito a se inspirar no modelo institucional americano. É inegável que, do ponto de vista da sistemática eleitoral, o Brasil está bem a frente, seja pelo fato de a escolha de nossos governantes ser direta (com cada voto correspondendo a um eleitor ) seja por conta da própria sistemática de votação, usando tecnologia de ponta, através de urnas eletrônicas. Enquanto isso, nos EUA, alguns estados ainda utilizam os mesmos procedimentos do século XVIII e XIX.

No entanto, o fato de os americanos adotarem com freqüência consultas diretas ao cidadão, através de referendos sobre a realidade local, acoplados às eleições convencionais (seja para a destituição dos representantes (recall), seja para aprovar ou rejeitar propostas de lei, em nível local), sua superioridade é inegável, em relação ao sistema brasileiro.

Reconhecidamente, o sistema presidencialista tem uma forma institucional muito rígida, com mandatos fixos, e sem o instituto da responsabilização do Executivo por seus atos. De uma forma geral, um governante só pode ser destituído, nesse sistema, através de impeachment, no caso de ter cometido crime de responsabilidade. Por conta disso, surgiu a necessidade de introduzir mecanismos de monitoramento do poder pelos cidadãos, através da consulta direta (seja quando estão em jogo decisões polêmicas, seja quando há um impasse político, que possa descambar para o campo institucional). Daí porque os golpes de estado são mais freqüentes no presidencialismo (nos EUA se mata o governante).

Depois dos Estados Unidos, talvez só a Venezuela, a Bolívia e o Equador tenham instrumentos efetivos de democracia direta. A Constituição brasileira de 1988 preconiza esses instrumentos, mas nunca foram regulamentados e seu acionamento está a cargo dos políticos, que, compreensivelmente, não querem dividir poderes com o povo. Contudo, já é hora de mudar essa situação e seguir o exemplo americano e de países vizinhos que seguem uma tendência inevitável da democracia do século XXI, de tornar-se cada vez mais participativa.

MEXICO: Questioning the Efficacy of Institutions

Democracy Under Construction

Filed under:
Democratization, Latin AmericaJason Lakin @ 12:58 pm
October 27, 2008

In 2006, when supporters of Mexico’s Andrés Manuel López Obrador (AMLO), then candidate for the leftist PRD, took to the streets to protest alleged vote fraud during the presidential elections, many carried banners that said “Democracy Under Construction.” The implication was clear: democracy at the institutional level, where elections were organized and votes counted, was not working. Real democracy was happening in the streets, where the people were organizing and raising their voices against these same institutions.

This “institutions versus the people” dichotomy in Mexican democracy is the most important legacy of the 2006 election. It continues to define the ideology of AMLO and his supporters up to the present. Last week, speaking about the energy reform which was approved by the Mexican Senate, AMLO said that what mattered was not what the legislature said, but what “we decide, the people.”

The logic is familiar to analysts that distinguish between republicanism (rule by democratic institutions, indirectly controlled by the people) and democracy (rule by the people directly). Though we most often use the term democracy in everyday discussions of regime type, what we usually mean is republicanism: rule by democratic institutions. No one believes that rule by institutions is a panacea. Advocates of direct democracy are correct to note that institutions frequently deviate from the will of the people, pursuing their own interests instead. On the other hand, advocates of republicanism presume, also correctly, that direct democracy is neither more realistic nor necessarily fairer than rule by institutions. Republicans point out that democratic publics are easily swayed by dangerous group-think, which, in the absence of institutions that force deliberation, can lead to the repression of minorities, and the prioritization of short-term gains over long-term development.

In general, the relevant question in a republic is whether or not republican institutions are legitimate. When institutions are legitimate, which minimally requires fair elections, then we tend to think that these institutions should be respected, even if we allow citizens to protest, file lawsuits, or lobby to change decisions made by them. What happens, however, when the institutions are not legitimate? This is the position taken by AMLO and his followers, who argued that the 2006 elections were illegitimate because the institutions that organized them were illegitimate, and because the process was not free and fair.

There is no question that AMLO’s attack on Mexican republican institutions is self-serving. However, whether AMLO is motivated by self-interest or not, many Mexicans do doubt the legitimacy and efficacy of their institutions. The only solution to widespread doubts about the legitimacy of institutions is the re-foundation of those institutions with renewed legitimacy, not, as Mexican conservatives sometimes seem to believe, to repeatedly restate that institutions are legitimate because they are institutions.

In fact, Mexico’s legislators are slowly achieving institutional renewal. The PAN (the president’s party) and the PRD were able to reach a consensus earlier this year to renew the leadership of the electoral institute (IFE), whose credibility was severely damaged in 2006. Although President Calderón was among the worst purveyors of the “institutions exist therefore they are legitimate” doctrine during the 2006 elections, he has pursued negotiation and consensus-building on key initiatives, such as fiscal and now energy policy. The result has been limited reform, but increasingly legitimate procedures for arriving at it.

The biggest threat to Mexico’s institutional renewal today comes from a different source: the spiraling corruption engendered by the war on drugs. Today, El Universal reports that officials working for SIEDO, a special government office dedicated to investigating organized crime, have been on retainer for the drug lords since at least 2004. These officials, who earned as much as US$450,000 per month, passed along government information to one of Mexico’s most notorious cartels, that of the Beltrán Leyva brothers. The revelations were the result of the government’s own Operation Cleanup, which means, of course, that they represent a double-edged sword. On the one hand, they should increase confidence that the government is functioning to police its own abuses. On the other, they reinforce the perception that the government is riddled with corruption, so much so that the war on drugs is doomed to failure.

Young democracies frequently struggle to renovate a large number of weak institutions all at once, but many do survive. The renovation of institutions is a tricky business, and there are plenty of reasons to worry that Mexico is not up to the task. But if there is one thing Mexicans proved during the twentieth century, it is that they are exceptionally creative at reinventing institutions. The one-party regime waxed and waned, but it survived intact for decades by adapting to radically changing international and domestic circumstances. Mexico’s leaders have demonstrated, since the crisis of confidence in 2006, a surprising ability to work together to avoid the worst. Many more surprises will be needed to push the country’s democratization forward. On this gloomy Monday, overshadowed by the disillusion of new corruption allegations, the country’s leadership may look down, but I wouldn’t count them out.

Sunday, November 9, 2008

BOLIVIA: Democracia Directa y Participativa en la Nueva Constitución

La CPE admite la democracia comunitaria para el gobierno


La Paz - Bolivia, 29 de octubre.- El proyecto de Constitución Política del Estado que será sometido a referendos aprobatorio y dirimente el 25 de enero incorpora a “la democracia comunitaria” en el sistema de Gobierno que podría tener Bolivia de aprobarse el documento constitucional.

La democracia proyectada por la nueva Carta Magna incluye las variables participativa, representativa y comunitaria. La aparición en el texto de este mecanismo es novedosa, ya que en el documento vigente sólo se reconocen el sistema democrático representativo y el directo.

Dentro del proyecto constitucional, el Capítulo Tercero, referido al Sistema de Gobierno, reconoce “normas y procedimientos propios de las naciones y pueblos indígena originario campesinos” a la hora de elegir autoridades, además incluye los cabildos y asambleas como formas deliberativas de la sociedad.

El diputado de Unidad Nacional (UN) Alejandro Colanzi, quien participó en la Mesa de Concertación que modificó el texto aprobado en 2007 en Oruro, sostuvo que este artículo “reconoce la diversidad de formas (democráticas) que aparecen en el país”.

La forma comunitaria que se incorpora a la democracia formal boliviana establece la elección de autoridades y representantes a través de procedimientos propios de las naciones y pueblos indígena originario campesinos. El proyecto además establece que la organización política, para todas las modalidades (representativa, participativa y comunitaria), será establecida mediante una ley.

Consultado acerca de la incorporación de la democracia comunitaria, Colanzi considera que ésta aparece en el texto gracias a las prácticas de la sociedad civil en los últimos años y que este sistema es un concepto que va más allá de las prácticas indígenas que “rescata el viejo concepto de la comuna”.

El politólogo Carlos Cordero considera que la democracia comunitaria es “una novedad en la tradición republicana, liberal y representativa”.

Empero, señala que falta observar cómo se articularán los distintos mecanismos democráticos y de qué manera éstos sostendrán sus relaciones con las formas de Gobierno reconocidas en la propuesta de Carta Magna.

En el capítulo de autonomías se determinaron, después de las negociaciones del Gobierno con los prefectos y los parlamentarios, cinco niveles gubernamentales: nacional, departamental, municipal, indígena y regional.

“En el tiempo se verá si se pueden complementar, ser armónicos o provocan tensionamientos”.

La faceta comunitaria de la democracia significa “la superación de la etapa donde las decisiones las tomaban técnicos con visión economicistas, como sucedió en las últimas dos décadas”, según el diputado Colanzi. En cambio, Cordero teme que el “asambleísmo pueda fortalecer los autoritarismos debido a las presiones ilícitas que se dan en esas situaciones”.

El texto propuesto reconoce como democracia participativa al referéndum, la iniciativa ciudadana, el revocatorio, las asambleas y los cabildos y la consulta previa.

“Las asambleas y cabildos tendrán carácter deliberativo”. La democracia participativa fue insertada en la Carta Magna que todavía está vigente en la gestión presidencial de Carlos Mesa (2003-2005).

Los principios del Estado

El artículo 8 del proyecto de Constitución Política del Estado (ver cuadro superior) incorpora como principios ético-morales del Estado boliviano los mandamientos propios de los pueblos indígenas originarios. Para el sociólogo Julio Mantilla, estos elementos no son añadiduras “folklóricas”, sino más bien “elaboraciones filosóficas” y visiones del desarrollo del “buen vivir”.

Para el especialista, el mencionado artículo incorpora visiones de la vida que son distintas de las planteadas por el racionalismo occidental. “La visión del suma qamaña, por ejemplo, es una visión de equilibrio entre trabajo, conocimiento, placer y solidaridad”. Mantilla considera que la irrupción de estos planteamientos representa un cambio muy profundo en nuestra manera de entender el mundo. “Se trata de cómo nosotros interiorizamos la nueva filosofía”.

Este precepto “es un tema central”. “Éste es un proceso gradual que en los próximos 20 años vamos a seguir madurando. Afectará tremendamente en la cotidianidad”.

El sociólogo comentó que estas “dimensiones filosóficas, lastimosamente, no son explicadas y por eso son vulgarizadas como algo folklórico”, y concluyó que esta incorporación es un avance “postmoderno” en la nueva Constitución.

El sistema de gobierno

La nueva CPE


I. La República de Bolivia adopta para su gobierno la forma democrática participativa, representativa y comunitaria, con equivalencia de condiciones entre hombres y mujeres.

II. La democracia se ejerce de las siguientes formas, que serán desarrolladas por la ley:

1. Directa y participativa, por medio del referendo, la iniciativa legislativa ciudadana, la revocatoria de mandato, la asamblea, el cabildo y la consulta previa. Las asambleas y cabildos tendrán carácter deliberativo conforme a ley.

2. Representativa, por medio de la elección de representantes por voto universal, directo y secreto, conforme a ley.

3. Comunitaria, por medio de la elección, designación o nominación de autoridades y representantes por normas y procedimientos propios de las naciones y pueblos indígena originario campesinos, entre otros, conforme a ley.

Artículo 12:

I. El Estado se organiza y estructura su poder público a través de los órganos Legislativo, Ejecutivo, Judicial y Electoral. La organización está fundamentada en la independencia…

La CPE vigente

La Constitución Política del Estado que está vigente hace mención al sistema de Gobierno en los primeros preceptos del documento.


I. Bolivia, libre, independiente, soberana, multiétnica y pluricultural constituida en República unitaria, adopta para su gobierno la forma democrática representativa y participativa, fundada en la unión y la solidaridad de todos los bolivianos.

Artículo 4:

El pueblo delibera y gobierna por medio de sus representantes y mediante la Asamblea Constituyente, la iniciativa legislativa ciudadana y el referéndum, establecidos por esta Constitución y normados por ley.

Artículo 2:

La soberanía reside en el pueblo; es inalienable e imprescriptible; su ejercicio está delegado a los poderes Legislativo, Ejecutivo y Judicial. La independencia y coordinación de estos poderes es la base del gobierno. Las funciones del poder público: legislativa, ejecutiva y judicial, no pueden ser reunidas en el mismo órgano.

Principios del Estado

La nueva CPE

Artículo 8:

I. El Estado asume y promueve como principios ético-morales de la sociedad plural: ama qhilla, ama llulla, ama suwa (no seas flojo, no seas mentiroso ni seas ladrón), suma qamaña (vivir bien), ñandereko (vida armoniosa), teko kavi (vida buena), ivi maraei (tierra sin mal) y qhapaj ñan (camino o vida noble).

II. El Estado se sustenta en los valores de unidad, igualdad, inclusión, dignidad, libertad, solidaridad, reciprocidad, respeto, complementariedad, armonía, transparencia, equilibrio, igualdad de oportunidades, equidad social y de género en la participación, bienestar común, responsabilidad, justicia social, distribución y redistribución de los productos y bienes sociales, para vivir bien.

Artículo 9:

Son fines y funciones esenciales del Estado, además de los que establece la Constitución y la ley:
1. Constituir una sociedad justa y armoniosa, cimentada en la descolonización, sin discriminación ni explotación.

La CPE vigente

Los principios, en la Carta Magna que está en vigencia, se mencionan en el artículo 8, que señala:
Artículo 8:

Es un Estado Social y Democrático de Derecho que sostiene como valores superiores de su ordenamiento jurídico, la libertad, la igualdad y la justicia.

Artículo 30:

Los poderes públicos no podrán delegar las facultades que les confiere esta Constitución, ni atribuir al Poder Ejecutivo otras que las que expresamente les están acordadas por ella.

Artículo 31:

Son nulos los actos de los que usurpen funciones que no les competen, así como los actos de los que ejerzan jurisdicción o potestad que no emane de la ley.

Artículo 32:

Nadie será obligado a hacer lo que la Constitución y las leyes no manden, ni privarse de lo que ellas no prohíban.

Artículo 34:

Los que vulneren derechos y garantías constitucionales quedan sujetos a la jurisdicción ordinaria.

Hitos Democráticos

El referéndum por los hidrocarburos inauguró la etapa de la democracia participativa.

La elección de prefectos, en 2005, dio inicio a otra faceta de la vida democrática.

La consulta revocatoria del 10 de agosto marcó el colofón de la participación.

PHILIPPINES: Looking to U.S. Direct Democracy as Example

This interesting piece from the Philippines looks to the direct democracy of initiative & referendum at the state level in the United States as an example for the Philippines to follow. - Editor

Direct Democracy

Pinoy Kasi

By Michael Tan
Philippine Daily Inquirer
First Posted 02:06:00 11/05/2008


The media frenzy around the US elections has mainly focused on the presidential race, and for good reason, considering the role American presidents play in charting the world’s future. This election is also particularly significant because we just might see the first African-American president.

But I’ve followed the elections also because they show how democracies work. Beneath the glitter and glamour, presidential elections allow substantive discussions of issues that matter to Americans, and to the world.

Few people are aware of another important part of American elections, that of referendums which allow citizens in some states to make some very vital decisions. In the Philippines, we also have this system of citizens’ initiatives but it hasn’t worked out, so maybe we should look more closely at what goes on in the US.

Burning issues

The issues taken up in these referendums reflect the burning issues of the day for Americans. This year, the most hotly debated propositions to be voted on revolve around abortion and same-sex marriage but there are initiatives around taxes, education, animal welfare and energy. California, for example, has two initiatives around alternative energy, including one that requires utilities companies to generate 20 percent of its power from renewable energy by 2010, 40 percent by 2020 and 50 percent by 2025.

The propositions also reflect how liberal or conservative a particular state might be. For example, 26 states have passed DOMASes or “Defense of Marriage Amendments,” which define marriage as a union of a man and a woman. These amendments are intended to block same-sex marriage, which is currently allowed in three states: California, Connecticut and Massachusetts. In this year’s elections, three states—Arizona, California and Florida—will be voting on a DOMAS (note that California already allows same-sex marriage so their new initiative is intended to overthrow that law).

Abortion has been legal in the US since 1973 but individual states have been looking for ways to impose restrictions. This year, there are three states with abortion-related initiatives. Colorado has a “Defense of the Person Initiative” which would bestow personhood status from the moment of fertilization, giving the fetus “equal rights of life, liberty and property.” If passed, this act would make abortion a crime equivalent to murder and homicide. South Dakota will vote on a constitutional amendment that will ban all abortions except for rape, incest or to protect women’s health. California has a proposition that will require parents of a minor to be notified, with a 48-hour waiting period, after that notification, before the minor can have her abortion.

It’s a powerful system of direct democracy—direct in the sense that citizens themselves make very important decisions, rather than leaving it to elected officials and legislators. At present, 18 states allow citizens to exercise direct democracy to amend a state constitutions, 22 allow citizens to initiate new laws or statutes and in 25 states, citizens can even overthrow or veto a state statute that has already been passed.

The process usually begins with citizens themselves gathering signatures for a petition to put an issue to a vote. The rules vary from one state to another, requiring a certain number for the petition to finally make it to the ballot. For example, California, for a proposition to revise a law, the number of signatures required to put it to a vote is equivalent to 5 percent of the total votes cast in the last election for the governor. To amend the constitution, the requirement is 8 percent.

Not all these initiatives begin with citizens. Some states have a system where the legislators themselves refer an issue to the public for approval.

It’s not easy to get these propositions to the point of a referendum. Gathering petitions is tedious work, and can be challenged by other citizens’ groups. Law suits have been filed against some of these propositions, effectively stopping them from being voted on.

If the propositions are eligible for a vote, the office of the secretary of the state has to put together materials to help citizens make an informed decision. Information materials (in print, and lately, even in audio for those who are visually impaired) are disseminated, explaining the pros and cons involved. This includes a discussion of the issue itself, but can go on to an extended examination of other implications, for example, the cost of enforcing the new law or lost income in terms of taxes. The materials also list people, groups, even newspapers that have endorsed or opposed the initiative. The main sponsors of the initiative are also put under scrutiny for possible vested interests.

Animal rights

There are many other initiatives that are going to be voted on in this election. As an educator, I was intrigued by Oregon’s Measure 60 where teachers’ classroom performance would determine pay raises.

Massachusetts has a Sensible Marijuana Policy Initiative, which would decriminalize small amounts (less than one ounce) of marijuana. Proponents say this would save $130 million a year in court and imprisonment costs, but those opposed, organized as a Coalition for Safe Streets, say such decriminalization would send a wrong message to young people.

Animal rights have become a big issue in the US and are reflected this year by three initiatives. California has Proposition 2, which requires that “calves raised for veal, egg-laying hens and pregnant pigs be confined only in ways that allow these animals to lie down, stand up, fully extend their limbs and turn around freely.” Massachusetts has an initiative that would ban the racing of dogs, specifically greyhounds.

Then there’s Alaska’s Wolf and Bear Protection Act, which went up for a vote a few weeks ago, during the primary elections, and was defeated. This was a referral, sent by state legislators to the public, which would have prohibited “shooting of free-ranging wolf, wolverine or grizzly bear on the same day a person has been airborne.” The law was proposed because hunters have been using aircraft to spot the animals before going after them.

The Philippines has Republic Act 6735, which allows these citizens’ initiatives, but we’ve seen it used repeatedly, from Con-con to Con-ass, by politicians looking for ways to amend the Constitution so they can stay in power. The Action for Economic Reform website has a good, brief critique of the law as “defective legislation,” making the propositions “easy to initiate, difficult to pass.” The problem is informed choice: being able to get enough information and education materials out to voters, rather than letting them be manipulated by politicians.

ITALIA: Democrazia Diretta en Bolzano - Livro di Thomas Benedikter

Livro: Democrazia Diretta - di Thomas Benedikter
Thomas Benedikter democrazia diretta

A Ferrara:

Notizia inserita il 6/11/2008

Presentazione del libro Thomas Benedikter

Pbc parla di democrazia diretta

Questa sera, alle ore 21, nella sala riunioni dell'associazione Per il Bene Comune, in piazzale Stazione 15, verrà presentato il libro “Democrazia diretta: più potere ai cittadini”, di Thomas Benedikter. Con l'autore parteciperanno Cinzia Bottene del comitato vicentino No Dal Molin; Giuseppe Carpentieri di Cittadinanza Attiva, Andrea Palamara di Per il Bene Comune.

“Durante la serata – spiega Monia Benini, presidente di Per il Bene Comune - tutti gli interventi saranno trasmessi in diretta via internet sul canale e i cittadini presenti in sala o collegati avranno la possibilità, anche attraverso la valutazione di esperienze internazionali, di discutere e confrontarsi sulla via d'uscita dalla limitazione della democrazia diretta e della partecipazione popolare a cui ci hanno portato gli attuali partiti italiani”.

Wednesday, November 5, 2008

NIGERIA: Demanding Direct Democracy

The business of democracy in Nigeria

By Joshua Ocheja

Democracy is the government of the people, by the people and for the people. It is basically of two types: Representative Democracy and Direct Democracy. Representative democracy is one founded on the principle of the people’s representatives, the representatives form more than one independent ruling body, vested with the responsibility of acting in the people’s interest but not as their proxy representatives, but with enough authority to take initiatives in the face of challenging circumstances.

Direct democracy, classically termed pure democracy, comprises a form of democracy and theory of civics wherein sovereignty is lodged in the assembly of all citizens who choose to participate. Depending on the particular system, this assembly might pass executive motions, make laws, elect and dismiss officials and conduct trials. Where the assembly elects officials, these are executive agents or direct representatives, bound to the will of the people.

Direct democracy stands in contrast to representative democracy, where sovereignty is exercised by a subset of people, usually on the basis of election. However, it is possible to combine the two into representative direct democracy.

In Nigeria today, we have striven for democracy for the greater part of our political history. Democracy is not a political buzzword but something definite, something we have relentlessly striven to attain, especially during the 29 years of military rule.

Those years were marred by the brazen ambitions of the military junta who were determined in retaining their leadership of the nation with detrimental repercussions. The contemporary Nigerian society consists of over 250 ethno-linguistic groups and is among the most ethnically-diverse countries in the world. The challenge our nascent democracy faces, is not the health status of the president or the number of ethnic groups, but the sheer politicisation and incorporation of ethnic diversity into national life.

Each ethnic group under the cover of relevance organises itself in the contest for national booties and view public policies largely from the prism of their sectional interest. Ethnic sentiments is at the heart of the perennial allegations of marginalisation by the different ethnic groups that make up the Nigerian nation

Democracy in Nigeria is a limited liability company where certain people have ownership and these people are conformist in that they feel Nigeria is not ripe to be listed on the stock exchange so the citizens can have shares via public offer.

The big question is how democratic is Nigeria? Nigeria is 48 years old. This is a company that has been in business for that long and remains a limited liability company whereas other nations that have not clocked 48 have become full fledged public liability companies, posting impressive financial result and giving its share holders(citizens) a reason to smile. But the Nigerian scenario is a different one. When an organisation stands as a limited liability company, their profit goes to the pocket of the few that are the owners. This is what our beloved country has become! You might want to agree with me that there exists a powerful cabal that dictates our yesterday, today and tomorrow.

These people have hypnotised us and they too have been hypnotised by their imagination. Their greatest worry is, when the spell eventually fades away what befalls them? Nigeria can not remain a limited liability company anymore; it has outgrown that status. Its citizens have a right to know who gets what, when and how.

The year 1999 marked a defining moment for Nigeria, I remember vividly when Obasanjo was being sworn in as president. He wore a facial expression, which I could not interprete. If only I could read his thought pattern. It was not easy but it was worth it, I believe Obasanjo will be telling his close aides in Ota farm. The task of ruling Nigeria is the most tedious in human endeavour. Aside the paraphernalia of office that are enticing, the rest is in the hands of God. You are for God or for the devil.

When Moses went to Pharaoh to deliver the heavenly message, Pharaoh in his earthly wisdom, dismissed it with a wave of the hand. The rest is history. This same scenario is playing out in Nigeria: Let us go, we keep saying! The ruling cabal is turning the deaf ear to our pleas. Nigeria is 48 and sincerely, we cannot tell our right from the left.

But I have a dream: that one day, we shall be free and free indeed! Nigeria will become a public liability company, churning out impressive result for its shareholders (citizens).