A popular singer, a young feminist rapper, a campesino activist and a father who lost his son to violent right-wing protests.
The elected members of Venezuela’s National Constituent Assembly, ANC, have been sworn in at a ceremony joined by thousands of supporters in Caracas.
Over eight million people voted in Venezuela’s election Sunday — a turnout of over 41 percent, according to electoral authorities — to choose from 6,120 candidates for the 545-member ANC.
364 members were chosen through a territorial vote, one member for each of Venezuela’s municipalities, two for each one that is a state capital and seven for the Libertador municipality of central Caracas.
Eight were elected through a vote conducted by Indigenous communities on Aug. 1, according to their customs and traditions, while the remaining 173 were elected according to different sectors.
Eight were for campesinos and fishermen, five for business people, five for persons with disabilities, 24 for students, 28 for pensioners, 24 for communal councils and 79 for workers in public administration, services, social areas, commerce, self-employed, industry, construction, transportation and the oil industry.
Among this diverse pool, four candidates stand out.
An artist defending Venezuela’s traditional music
Gino Gonzalez was elected as one of the ANC members from the workers’ sector. But he is best known as one of Venezuela’s most famous songwriters and performers.
Gonzalez is also a poet and professor of language and literature.
He said in a recent interview that he was confident that the ANC can generate better leadership and even bring forward a new opposition that differs from the current one by not being violent or manipulated by wealthy and powerful figures.
“If one looks at history, that long history we have, there is that avaricious sector, it’s a world minority that has everything, but that is not enough for them,” Gonzalez said. “They need people that flatter them, who make them feel superior.”
The artist said he rejected the idea that after former President Hugo Chavez died, the Bolivarian Revolution would die.
“So as long as these historical inequalities persist, how will Chavismo be in crisis?” Gonzalez asked.
Gonzalez is also a defender of revolutionary Venezuelan music and a promoter of traditional rhythms from the country.
“We must begin to want our own, to consume our products planted and harvested with our own hands from our fields, to start emerging from this crisis, being self-sufficient and independent,” the artist said.
He organized the Philosophical Meetings for the Poor, a platform to discuss political, social and economic matters in neighborhoods across the country.
“For too long ‘the wise’ have spoken and exposed theories on behalf of those who ‘do not know.'”
He said it’s time to change that.
A rapper representing the youth
Rodbexa Poleo, who has a strong passion for hip-hop and rap, was chosen as one of the representatives from the social sector and now represents the young people of Venezuela.
As an ANC member, Poleo believes in strengthening the country’s laws with help from communal councils and popular consultations.
The rapper, who has written and performed several songs on issues like equality and social justice, wants to ensure that the youth employment program promoted by the government continues to work and becomes stronger.
This plan aims to include a greater number of young Venezuelans in the productive sectors of the economy.
She also says that during her work as an ANC member, she will promote culture so that it can serve as a basis for every discussion inside of the political body.
“We are believers in the transfer of power to the people, but for there to be such a transfer, the people must be educated and organized,” Poleo said.
She added that her political proposal is to have a “governance project” in which cultural, athletic and economic activities are strengthened.
A Campesino seeking equality
From the list of Venezuela’s campesinos and fishermen, one name stands out: Braulio Alvarez.
A campesino leader, human rights defender and former lawmaker, Alvarez has fought against large landowners in the country and has even received death threats for his work.
One of his main battles has been to protect workers and other rights leaders from threats and murders from large foreign corporations.
“This historical assembly helps all campesinos of Venezuela. We will fight against the empire and build socialism,” Alvarez said.
He said the ANC will discuss and debate two models of state and society: capitalism and socialism.
“If we talk about sovereignty and independence, we have to get rid of the neoliberal commercial businesses and terrorists who participate in coups, like Monsanto, Cargil and Bayer, among others. It is a debt we have,” he said.
Alvarez also urged the creation of organized campesino communities to protect their lands from large landowners, who have murdered hundreds of leaders in the countryside.
A father fighting for justice for his son
Luis Rafael Duran joined the ANC following one of the saddest moments of his life.
The elected member from the capital district of Caracas lost his son to the violent “Guarimba” protests that killed dozens of people in 2014.
Elvis Duran de La Rosa, 29, was riding his motorcycle when he hit a road blockade held together by a strong rope placed by right-wing opposition protesters who pushed him off of his vehicle. He didn’t survive the incident.
Since then, his father has become a member of the Committee of Victims of the Guarimba and wants the ANC to ensure that there are no more violent deaths in the country.
Duran believes that there are some loopholes that need to be closed in the Constitution so that those responsible for these deaths don’t go unpunished.
“In order for peace to exist in the country, it is necessary for the judicial bodies to work properly so that there’s justice in the country. That is the only way that the relatives of the victims of political violence sponsored by the Venezuelan right in the years 2013, 2014 and 2017 can forgive their perpetrators,” Duran said.
The newly-elected ANC members have since created a Truth Commission to investigate the acts of violence that have shaken the country during past years.