Opinion and Analysis: Participation
The Communes Are Still Being Constructed
It has already been well said by the president of the republic, Hugo Chavez; “We are going to put our heart and soul into creating these communes and giving power to the people in socialist territories”.
But not having the objective of the communes clearly outlined, the apathy towards organisation in some communities, the presence of communal councils here and there which don’t support the process, and a lack of consultancy, are all reasons being put forward by organised communities to explain why they still have not registered with the Ministry for Communes and Social Protection in order to obtain their legal status as communes.
Ana Blanco, a development officer for user services at the registration office for popular power, informed us that, up until now, only two communes in construction [in the author’s area of Caracas] have begun to take the first steps towards registration [Translator: skip to the end of this article of an explanation of the registration steps]. These two communes are Juan 23 and Panal 2021, both from the 23 de Enero neighbourhood. Registration opened in December 2011.
The importance of taking this step is simple. Once the commune is established, it then gives way to the creation of the communal state, which is a form of socio-political organisation established in the Republic’s Constitution whereby power is directly exercised by the people through self-governing communities. This is what the president has been emphasising for some time.
Nelson Solorzano, spokesperson for the Juan 23 Commune told us that, “Fundacomunal has already accepted our democracy and development committees. Now we have 30 days to organise the approval referendum for the Foundational Act, which we are hoping to start this week”.
However, Solorzano also has reservations. “We have been trying to construct this commune for 4 years and now they are insisting that we give the elections precedence, and the priority right now has to be the elections, because the creation of the communes is only possible with Chavez”.
He also confirms that they have come up against obstacles. “There are some communal councils that don’t agree with the construction of the communes, and what we have had to do there is to deal directly with the community. We come up against problems and we need time to keep building consciousness amongst the people, because there are some communal councils which are not with the [revolutionary] process, others only want protagonistic democracy and others don’t understand what a commune is. There are also people who don’t want to break with the fact that they belong only to San Juan, and they don’t understand why they should get together with other communities. However we have advanced a lot and we almost have the commune consolidated”.
Amongst their latest achievements is having put into circulation a communal currency which can be used for student transport tickets and is sold as 1 Bolivar.
According to the Law of the Communes in article 17, once the Foundational Charter has been approved via referendum, the development committee will then present the charter to the ministry of communes, as well as the document used for the referendum which should be signed by the members of the respective permanent electoral commissions. Through this act the commune can gain its legal status.
The 17 Voices of Ezequiel Zamora Commune ,under construction, from the Antimano barrio is currently going through the third stages of registration says Henry Rodriguez, spokesperson for the working group for the communal economy.
For the third stage, communal councils should organise a citizen’s assembly in their community in order to choose their representatives and then designate their democracy and development committees.
He assured us that people in his zone are sure of what they want. He explained that you must have an objective when it comes to this kind of popular organisation, “For example, in terms of the economic part it’s about creating Social Production Enterprises (EPS) which are administered by the communal councils, and in terms of the big issues, they can be resolved collectively between sectors from Antimano and El Junquito, which make up this commune. We extend from Matapalos to the higher part of kilometre 11 in Monte Sinai”.
The work that they are carrying out to construct the commune is accompanied by a series of workshops on political training and communal economy, health and democracy, all given by the Ministry of the Communes. At the moment they are receiving classes and each module lasts an hour, he explained.
Magaly Marrero, who works in social auditing for the Araguaney communal council, confirmed that the Community Success Commune in La Vega in Caracas is “almost disintegrated”. The reason for this is that participation levels in the communal councils which make up this commune are very low.
“We have had problems with integration in the sense that the working groups for the communal councils are not happening”.
Given so much apathy, they asked for help from the Francisco de Mirando Front in order to reactivate their community battle room and with that their commune, “but we still haven’t received a reply”.
However, she confirmed that the community is still preparing a communal plan.
Nelsi Turizo from the Bolivar Vive Commune in la Vega confirmed that “we have already done all the paperwork for Fundacomunal. The problem that we had was that we were assessed by a representative from Fondemi [the Fund for Micro-financing Development] and then he never came back, and what he did slowed us down. That happened a few months ago. Now we are starting again with an assessment officer from Fundacomunal and we get together every other Thursday”.
René Andrade from the Commander Mirabel Commune in barrio Santa Rosalia told us that they hadn’t been visited by the Ministry for Communes, and as such were unaware that they could register already. “We have all our documents ready, a map of the commune, certificates from each communal council, but they haven’t told us anything. But I’m going to find out what’s going on”.
He said that they were working with the government’s Great Housing Mission and that they had already gathered all the details for people who didn’t have their own houses, as well as having found spaces where they could build the residential homes, formed project commissions, and rehabilitation and credit commissions.
In order to inform the community about what is going on, they have called a citizen’s assembly for June 30th. The meeting will be held from 2.00 pm onwards in the Manuel Diaz Rodriguez School.
To the East
Francisco Guerrero from the Amalivaca Commune in barrio el Recreo said that they had been informed of the registration process for the communes, but that they “hadn’t proceeded because we are currently engaged in a structural reorganisation”.
He explained to us what is happening. “As there are some communal councils who have had their resources reduced, there are some comrades that have deviated from working on building the commune, because they are working, as we say, with purely iron bars and cement, and the political aspect of the work has been deviated from, and that’s the aspect that we have to reinforce because we have to go back to the politics of it”. On Saturdays they meet in the Simon Rodriguez Education Unit.
Wilfredo Figueroa from the Caricuao Indian Commune said that the main difficulty was in the adaptation of the communal councils.
“We are hoping that they inform us when they are going to adapt them, if it is now or in the coming year. They haven’t given us that information yet and we have asked Fundacomunal”.
They will keep working and waiting to construct the commune.
Steps for registering a communal council
Registration for the communes can be carried out at the Office for Registration for Popular Power in El Guarataro. The first step is comprised of each communal council holding an assembly to elect their representatives for the commune. Then they will choose their development and democracy committees so that they can draft up the Foundational Act which should contain the geographical limits of the commune, its geographical environment, the name of the commune, the declaration of its principles, a census of its population when it was initially formed, an analysis of its principal problems and the needs of its population, an inventory of its economic, social, cultural, environmental potential and options for its development, a strategic and communal political programme, an outline of the general action lines for initiatives to be taken in the short, medium and long term in order to overcome the community’s problems and needs. The Foundational Act then must be submitted to a referendum.
Translation by Rachael Boothroyd for Venezuelanalysis.com
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