The media portrays Venezuela's approach to socialism as the sort of top-down bureaucracy of the past. In reality, community councils that rely on direct democracy are one of the cornerstones of the Bolivarian Revolution. It's their job to make decisions at the local level, allocating money and carrying out projects to improve neighborhoods from the bottom up.
Barrio Adentro, Venezuela's health care program, has brought free and comprehensive medical care -- including a broad array of procedures previously available only to the wealthy alone -- to millions of the country's poor who otherwise might never have been able to see a doctor.
Since the program was created 12 years ago, it has provided 705.3 million consultations at 10,000 healthcare centers nationwide. The social mission was launched and operated with the support of 32,000 Cuban medical personnel, many of whom have been dispatched to the most remote regions of Venezuela.
There is no question that the global economic crisis has taken its toll on the Venezuelan economy. Inflation is high and there are shortages of some basic food items. But Venezuelans are finding ways around the shortages with grassroots socialism and solidarity.