New Internationalist

The little blue book

Issue 390

Every Venezuelan has been given a copy of the Bolivarian Constitution – a little blue book. It was written by a specially elected Constituent Assembly and endorsed by referendum in 1999, followed by laws to implement its provisions. Many Venezuelans can quote from it and a few frequently do. Here is a little of what they might be quoting.

Preamble: The Venezuelan people… rebuilding the Republic to establish a democratic, participative and protagonistic society, multi-ethnic and pluricultural in a federal and decentralized State of justice, which promotes… the universal and indivisible guarantee of human rights, the democratization of international society, nuclear disarmament, ecological equilibrium and the environment as a common and irreducible patrimony of all humanity… decree the following:

Article 5: Sovereignty resides in the people and cannot be transferred…

Article 43: The right to life is inviolable. No law may establish the death penalty, and no authority may apply it.

Article 45: Public authorities, whether civil or military… are prohibited from practising, permitting or tolerating the forced disappearance of persons. Any functionary who receives an order or instruction to do so is obliged to disobey…

Article 68: The use of firearms and toxic substances to control peaceful demonstrations is prohibited…

Article 70: Methods of participation and protagonism by the people in the exercise of their sovereignty include: politically – the election of public officials; the referendum; the popular consultation; the revocation of mandate; the legislative, constitutional and constituent initiative; the open meeting and assembly of citizens; socially and economically – self-management; co-management; the co-operative in all its forms…

Article 72: All popularly elected offices or functions are revocable…

Article 80: The State will guarantee to elderly men and women the full exercise of their rights and guarantees… Pensions authorized through the system of Social Security will never be less than the minimum urban wage…

Article 81: Each person with a disability or special need has a right to the full and autonomous exercise of their capacities and to integration within their family and community…

Article 83: Health is a fundamental social right, an obligation of the State, guaranteed as a part of the right to life…

Article 88: The State will guarantee equality and equity between men and women in the exercise of the right to work…

Article 90: The working day shall not exceed 8 hours nor the working week 44 hours…

Article 95: Men and women workers, without any distinction or requirement for prior authorization, have the right freely to create whatever trade-union organizations they deem desirable…

Article 102: Education is a human right and a fundamental social duty which is democratic, free and obligatory…

Article 107: Environmental education is obligatory…

Article 115: The right to property is guaranteed…

Article 119: The State recognizes the existence of indigenous peoples and communities, their social, political and economic organization, their cultures, practices and customs, languages and religions, as also their habitat and original rights over the land they occupy…

Article 124: Collective intellectual property rights over the knowledge, technology and innovations of indigenous peoples are guaranteed… The registration of patents on such resources and ancestral knowledge is prohibited.

Article 127: It is a right and duty of each generation to protect and maintain the environment in its own interests and those of the world in future…

Article 153: The Republic will promote and favour Latin American and Caribbean integration…

Article 307: The latifundia (large land estates) system is contrary to the social interest. The law will provide for the assessment of disused land and will establish the means necessary for its transformation… Peasants and other agricultural producers have a right to land ownership…

Note: Spanish nouns are gender-specific and, traditionally, the masculine form has always been used in official documents. The Venezuelan Constitution is unique in that it invariably includes both masculine and feminine forms, for example ‘el Presidente o Presidenta’ or ‘los trabajadores y las trabajadoras’.

Translation by New Internationalist

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