Water and Sanitation Socialism in Caracas: Interview with Victor Díaz

By REBECCA MCMILLAN, SUSAN SPRONK – UPSIDE DOWN WORLD, August 28th 2012

The mesas técnicas del agua (Technical Water Forum, MTAs) are a unique experiment in radical urban planning, whereby beneficiary communities map their own water and sanitation needs and help to plan infrastructure development, which is financed by the state. Thanks to heavy state investment in water and sanitation infrastructure and this participatory methodology, Venezuela now has 96% coverage in potable water, one of the highest rates in the region. Victor Díaz was part of a team of reformers who were working in HIDROCAPITAL (the state-owned and operated water and sanitation that serves the federal district of Caracas) under the mayorship of Aristóbulo Istúriz (1993-1996). Many of the original team members have since gone on to hold major positions in the Chávez government. In this interview, Victor talks about the accomplishments in the water and sanitation sector, including the meaning of socialism, the importance of popular power and political support, as well as the challenges that remain. 

Rebecca McMillan and Susan Spronk: Can you tell us about your political history and your role in HIDROCAPITAL? 

Victor Díaz: I studied geography in the Universidad Central de Venezuela in the 1980s, a time when the student movement was very active. As a student I met a group of people who believed in popular power and we worked to make it a reality in HIDROCAPITAL. Today, I am the Community Coordinator of HIDROCAPITAL in the Caracas metropolitan area, which is the capital region. I have been with the company for 13 years, and before that I worked in politics, mostly in the parishes Antímano and 23 de Enero [poor neighbourhoods in Caracas].

I think that the secret of our success is that the team of people involved in the reforms have long identified with the idea of transferring power to the people. It isn’t just rhetoric. Our commitment began in the universities in the 1980s with the movement to democratize the universities through student participation. And now the same commitment to participation is reflected in all of the government’s proposals. The leaders know that if the directors don’t have a clear understanding and commitment to participation, then a proposal is not going to last, because you cannot force proposals on people. It never works to do things by decree. READ FULL STORY

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