CARACAS, Venezuela — As this city filled up with delegates from 160 countries attending the sixth World Social Forum last month, one thing seemed to be on their minds: learning more about the revolutionary process taking place in Venezuela. And Venezuelans — from state officials to political party leaders to activists in the social movements to the man, woman or child in the street — are eager to talk about the Bolivarian Revolution.

Antonio Pérez, a mason, said, “The opposition doesn’t stand a chance. In 40 years they did nothing [for the people].” He noted that a recent opposition march of social-democrats, right-wingers and one ultra-left group was in an area “close to where the rich live.” He said they would have incurred the anger of the people if they had marched in the poor areas, although he quickly added that the Bolivarian Revolution is democratic and all points of views are heard.

The opposition press made a big deal of the anti-Chávez march, he said, even though only a few hundred people were involved. Pérez pointed to a newspaper photograph of Antonio Ledesma, the former mayor of Caracas, who writes a regular column. He said Ledesma consistently attacks Chávez and Juan Barreto, the current chavista mayor of the capital city.

“But the people are with the president,” Pérez said.

Responding to opposition claims that they could do things better, he said, “That is pure silliness. They never brought forth solutions to any problems.”

“I don’t know what this 21st century socialism means,” Pérez said. “All I know is that things are better for the poor.” Even something as simple as being able to enter the Simón Bolivar Plaza, where he was sitting reading his newspaper, was important. In the past, he said, “you could not enter without being ‘properly dressed.’ Now everyone can come in.”

Alicea Hurianes, a municipal worker with one of the many cleaning crews one sees throughout Caracas as part of a government clean-up campaign, said the situation has changed for the better for low-income people and indigenous peoples like herself. Hurianes is a Guaraní, one of the indigenous people of the country’s south.

Small businessman Luis Acuña said the opposition forces are wrong to blame Chávez for the political strife in the nation. “The people are united. There was more division with them [the old governments].” He said the majority are “together now.”

José Morales, a teacher, downplayed and laughed at the “great attention” the local press gave to the opposition march, contrasting it with the huge turnout for pro-Chávez actions. “If Chávez himself calls for a march now, everybody comes out.”

As if to confirm his words, a pro-Chávez march on Feb. 4 brought out tens of thousands while an opposition march on the opposite side of town the same day brought out only a few thousand.

While many have faith in Chávez and the people’s willingness to defend the Bolivarian revolutionary process like they did during the foiled right-wing coup of April 2002, trade unionist Omar Rangel said the situation is not all that rosy.

“We still have to raise the consciousness of the people,” Rangel said. He said the country’s new unions are trying to do just that. He urged the foreign delegates to the World Social Forum to talk and listen to the people, even those who may have differences with the revolutionary process. “You will learn a lot this way,” he said.

The people of Venezuela seem to be interested not only in what’s happening in their own country, but also in the world at large. This was reflected not only in the numerous questions they asked the foreign forum participants, but in the attention they gave watching the inauguration of the new Bolivian president, Evo Morales.

Morales, of indigenous and working-class origins, seems to have captured the hearts of poor Venezuelans as they watched him take his oath of office with a clenched fist in the air, simply dressed, with the only outward sign of office being the wearing of the presidential sash.

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