Antonio Ledezma: "The strength of local governments lies in their efficiency and the transparency of their management"
The mayor of Caracas, Antonio Ledezma, participated in the debate on the theme of "Challenges for local democracy in the world" being held at the Session of the Congress of Local and Regional Authorities of the Council of Europe.
This interview is free of copyright for the publication on media.
What challenges does the city of Caracas face in terms of local democracy?
The main challenge is to find solutions, by which I mean to govern efficiently. The strength of local governments lies in their efficiency, their proximity to citizens and their capacity to work close to the population. This requires us to be recognised partners, so that we can work without barriers and provide satisfactory answers to the questions which arise. There are some obstacles which need to be overcome, such as corruption, and this will be possible when governments work transparently, reduce any impediments, report regularly on their activities and avoid leaving it to election time to approach ordinary citizens. We must not have any complexes about globalisation among nations, because we need to carry out our own globalisation, keeping our feet firmly on the ground.
Local democracy promotes participation by ordinary people. What is your experience in a city of 4 million people?
Firstly, we need to work in a disciplined manner; secondly, we must have a vocation to serve the community. We, as mayors, must realise that we do not have the same privileges as Heads of State. People use the familiar form of address to me, and I am referred to by my surname, rather than as Dr Ledezma. They feel that it is their right to ask me to solve their problems. We must have the patience to listen to and understand the arguments of the people of our city. In order to bolster democracy, we must promote participation. And there can be no democracy without devolution, and the true driving force of devolution is the ordinary citizen.
Internet plays a most important part as regards dialogue with the citizens. What is the position in Caracas?
The level of Internet access has increased significantly of late. We have made a stubborn effort to set up interactive classes in all schools so that pupils learn to use these resources. In disadvantaged neighbourhoods like La Bombilla, I used to be asked to provide bicycles; today it’s computers. We have our own website, on which we have just created a page dealing with voluntary service in order to train high-standard professional for work in the district of Caracas. Through the Internet it is possible to improve collection of taxes, or to arrange for the participation of a citizen not wishing to attend a meeting, or to present a project which may be financed by the European Union, the Inter-American Development Bank, the World Bank or the Canary Islands government for Spanish nationals living in Venezuela.
What is your municipality’s policy for getting closer to young people and integrating migrants?
Migrants form an important social group in Venezuela. When I was Mayor of Libertadores, a municipality of Caracas, only 12% of the population paid property tax and a fair proportion of them were migrants. Where young people are concerned, we must build a town to suit all stages of life. We must ensure that young people gather once more on the public squares and leave the shopping centres where they take refuge today because of the insecurity. We must invest in education and promote the image of a dynamic youth involving itself in the town.