Changing the Constitution on an Empty Stomach


“We are going to get a stronger Constitution,” a man in his 50s explains while he drinks black coffee on a rainy morning in the Plaza Bolívar. “The government has given more power to the people. We need to create a new mechanism in a moment when ‘el imperio’ is trying to take advantage of the crisis in the country, a crisis created by the opposition. They refuse to talk because they need casualties and disaster to serve as cover for an invasion. We are getting stronger for the new chapter of the revolution,” he said.

His speech was crisp and well-rehearsed. Later, he explained to me that he’d prepared it ahead of a talk he’s giving his neighbors in Catia. He had a video beam, some chairs and a good sound system to go over the subject at a community meeting, but he was not happy with the result.

“It was a weeknight, and a lot of people showed up and listened to me, but after the speech they started to squabble over CLAP bags and the free soup kitchen that we have for the kids,” he said, looking disappointed. “They started to accuse each other of stealing the food and they missed the point of the meeting.”

While some chavistas are true believers in the Constituent Assembly, others keep their eye on what’s essential. Memories of Chávez’s only election night defeat, after the constitutional reform referendum of 2007, are fresh. Some revolucionarios think that in the middle of an economic crisis, the challenges here are grave.

“I know that the President called for a Constituyente, I think it would be like a new election, like the one that Chávez lost, but I don’t have too much information about that,” a lady with a red shirt that was working in a shop in one of the Misión Vivienda buildings in the center of the capital told me. She was around 70 years old, you could tell by her face full of wrinkles and her white hair, but she still showed her coquetry with her red lipstick and nail polish.

“They started to accuse each other of stealing the food and they missed the point of the meeting.”

The place was small and she didn’t have a lot of vegetables on offer.

“With the guarimbas, trucks are refusing to come, so we don’t have a lot to sell,” she explains. Some bruised tomatoes and carrots were laid in two boxes next to the chair where she was sitting.

“I know that the Constituyente is important, for political power, do you understand? But I also need to work. I’m part of the Consejo Comunal and I have seen kids from this building having to miss classes because they don’t have anything to eat. Food is getting more expensive, and living is now more difficult than ever. We need to help each other and take care of the children of the Patria (…) I remember that Chávez used to care about the kids, because they are the future. The Constituyente can wait, hunger can’t,” she said.

“If the opposition is the majority why are they so afraid of the Constituyente?”, an old guy asked me as he swept under a bench at Plaza Bolívar, “they just want chaos”, he reflected while he was cleaning the plaza. The man was wearing his red shirt of the town hall as he pushed the garbage bucket. His white mustache covered almost his whole mouth. He swept the ground with a huge palm that fell from a tree instead of a broom. “It’s cheaper, right?,” I asked. “Works better,” he answered.

For him, the Constituyente isn’t a betrayal of Chávez’s constitution, it’s just meant to make it better.

“The misiones can be put into the Constitution just to guarantee that in case, God forbid, the opposition grabs power, we still have our misiones. I think Maduro is trying to protect ‘el legado de Chávez.’

The Constitution leaves Maduro a lot of leeway in designing the specifics of any Constituyente, and whatever leeway the Constitution doesn’t give him, the Supreme Tribunal will. Maduro talks about an election without political parties to elect a staggering 500 constituyentistas. Meanwhile regional and presidential elections go on hold indefinitely and the Assembly, the opposition’s biggest achievement, is practically eliminated.

“The Constituyente can wait, hunger can’t.”

“We didn’t win the elections for the Constituyente with Chávez,” says a lady selling coffee from a thermos and loose cigarettes in front of the Catedral, apparently also thinking of 2007. “Now, with Maduro it’s going to be almost impossible. Don’t get me wrong. I’m not going to vote for Borges or Ramos Allup, but how can you support a government when you know that your son is hungry?”

For 20 years she’s scratched out a living selling coffee downtown: “I used to come just on weekdays and, with that, I made good living. On weekends, I used to go the beach and my family lived well. Now, I come six days a week and I don’t have food at home. My refrigerator broke five months ago and I can’t fix it.”
In the words of this chavista, the problem is simple: “who’s going to worry about rewriting the Constitution on an empty stomach?”

Caracas Chronicles is 100% reader-supported. Support independent Venezuelan journalism by making a donation.


  1. Venezuela’s Riot Police Are Ready to Jump Ship according to WSJ
    In the wake of two months of massive violent protests throughout Venezuela, the nation’s riot police has been stretched to the breaking point, with many seeking a way out, according to a recent report by the Wall Street Journal. The piece also notes that riot police are offered the most meager rations, deprived of sleep, and have been confined to their barracks in off-duty time, due to recent desertions.
    In the Wall Street Journal‘s report, rank-and-file officers interviewed suggest that support for the regime is wavering, a situation only hastened by insufficient food, water, medical care, and wages. Yet riot police also bear the brunt of jeers and ridicule from their neighbors, with many removing their uniforms on their way to and from work. Working for the Maduro regime now comes with a severe social stigma, a fact that could prove catastrophic for the socialist government.

    Thus, the question remains: Will Venezuela’s state security rank-and-file desert their posts and/or turn on the government despite the consequences?

    • Thanks for posting that link. I read that article today and its theme goes hand-in-hand with many recent discussions here.

      The street protests are working. Also saw Borges appealing to military personnel today to reconsider their actions against fellow Venezuelans.

  2. I cannot understand why the leaders of the opposition, in instead of wasting time on arguing if the stupid constituyente is legal or not, do not emphasize the fact it will do nothing to resolve the economic crisis of the nation.

    • Because they don’t want a change in the system, they want to take over the state of parties where “big daddy government provider will take care of the stupid little retarded sheep that are the pueblo”

  3. Bizarro World. Where the “revolutionaries” complain against agitators that want chaos because they want to defend an unjust status quo of misery.

    If you cant see that people fighting over fucking bags of food is exactly what you are supposed to protest against if you are in any kind or shape concerned about “the people”…

  4. I would be standing up and applaud loudly if I didn’t hate those cunt chavistas with a passion! MUD is and has always been at least 5 steps behind currant affairs and that includes today. El bravo pueblo is at home or at work or hacienda colas come siempre. Still not 3,5% of the population in the streets all day every day. So Castro/Maduro/Narcos are winning the battle and the war as they have been for the last 18 years and will continue to do for the next 18 years. Shit apparently isn’t bad enough for a vast majority of the people to stand up and fight. Chavismo will win and it’s el bravo pueblo’s own fault, always late for any appointment. Pendejos!!!!!!!

  5. Massive, abject ignorance of the massive/majority Pueblo is well-evidenced by those interviewed here. What degree of further starvation will be necessary for even the recalcitrant Chavistas to open their eyes? (Forget about Constituyente this, or Constituyente that–these are as far away/above their heads in meaning as the stars….

  6. Not all chavistas have to open their eyes, anyway. Poor people are under tremendous pressure by the dictatorship. They are the most affected, and so, they have a different perspective and I understand that. In any case, I think many have opened their eyes, and not only that, they are fighting and risking what they don’ t have.
    What really bothers me is the kind of people who voted for chavez, became rich oppo supporters at some point, and now they judge those who are fighting.

    • “Poor people are under tremendous pressure by the dictatorship. They are the most affected, and so, they have a different perspective and I understand that”
      That’s over 70% I the population, which part of their perspective do you understand, bcuz I don’t understand it at all.
      “many have opened their eyes, and not only that, they are fighting”
      no and no, the vast majority haven’t opened their eyes and even more than the vast majority isn’t fighting anything, that’s the whole point, the vast majority of Venezuelans isn’t doing anything at all and it’s so stunning to me I think it’s worth studying why that is. Why aren’t huge amounts of Venezuelans in the streets, is it because there is still some food left and some medicine. When is enough enough for the average Venezuelan, thats what I’ve been asking myself for at least 4-5 years and I can’t find an answer. It’s beyond of what I can comprehend. How much more shit will they swallow???? Soon though it will all be over, bcuz chevere rojo rojito is winning this war! I speak 5 languages fluently and can’t express how disappointed I am having to witness a country just sitting on their hands looking at the whole thing going to hell. I guess they just don’t give a shit.

      • Always the same thing from you. Give it a rest. Or, if you’re so outraged all the time, go back to Venezuela and show the people how it’s done.


Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here