Since Hugo Chavez came to power in Venezuela in 1998, large parts of the country's vast oil resources have been diverted towards social spending amongst the poor sectors of the population. Moreover, shantytown communities have become actively engaged in various forms of social and political activism. This chapter recounts the social and political conditions that led to the emergence of Hugo Chavez at the political scene, with a special focus on how the development of the oil economy was shaped by and shaped social inequalities. Subsequently, the author shows how social mobilization from below have been a defining feature of the past decade's political and social processes. The central focus of the chapter is an ethnography-based analysis of the so-called Communal Councils, which are the main form for contemporary community activism. Through these councils, local communities develop and execute welfare projects and improvements in their immediate surroundings, financed through state resources. The chapter illustrates the state-community dynamics emerging from this form of resource redistribution, and argues that in spite of substantial challenges and problems, community activism have led to important processes of social inclusion for the previously marginalized part of the population.


Recent CMI publications: