The Communal Levels of the War

As the Maduro government cracks down on contraband and speculation, communes and communal councils are taking the lead as a key front in the economic war. 


This is a politicized country and especially people who don’t live here are impressed by the ease with which anyone of any occupation or social status, in any part of the country, has something to say about the economy, national and international politics.

From these perspectives, it would seem that the biggest problems facing Chavismo today are promoted by the adventures of the [opposition party alliance] MUD and their not-so-lawful colleagues and their dissidents; large-scale sabotage against the economy and food distribution, the slip-ups and avatars of the Bolivarian government, the attacks of hostile governments and the international press. We forget, or perhaps we have choosen not to identify one detail: the everyday manifestations of that [economic] war on a local and municipal level, even on a domestic and community level, are not a symptom of the economic war but the war itself.

It is not the economic war, that abstract thing which smells so much of Fedecamaras and Polar Enterprises, which appears in the long lines and fights outside the Chinese supermarket in Guanare, no; what is happening in the those lines and even deeper, in our streets, our corners and our families, those bitter discussions between old friends that sometimes end with slaps and a “I’m not speaking to you anymore”; those clashes with the bachaqueros and the anguish of not knowing who is in line to buy food for their home and who is buying to resell; those shouted arguments that end in tumult and people running (with grave or more dramatic outcomes from time to time); that is the war. It is not an effect of the war; it is the war.


The majority of citizens in this politicized country in rebellion have focused 100 percent of their senses, their physical energy and their consciousness on finding food and items needed at home. Those who are not a part of this dynamic and only perceive the country’s issues through the media are a minority. This minority, generally well-informed and with an established opinion about what they know and intuit, is the voice that generally projects macro-analysis of the nation’s situation. Their dedication to capture and synthesize what is going on in the country through networks and media awards them a place in the national war sphere.

Other citizens “tied up” in social media use the networks to create registers of what they find in the street and concrete proposals of how to dodge economic war bullets; these are essential players. 

But on the neighborhood and communal level other more complex things are occurring, with new intensities, risks and responsibilities. We use the term “communal levels” to describe those people who develop in environments which do not formally exist or are in the process of being managed. In those communes, organized humans who are “heading there” but have yet to be labeled proper communes (because many lack the legislation, resources, and the operative capacity), is where politics and war acquire true strategic and revolutionary logic. 

 The comrade president of the republic, Nicolas Maduro, has just announced an upcoming front against the bachaqueros. Diosdado Cabello, pressing the matter, has called upon people to point out and denounce those people who kidnap the people’s food to sell it at over ten times its original price. A week before the country learned of the activities of Rafael Lacava, mayor of Puerto Cabello: making calls to arrange purchases, and when the unknowing seller arrives on the scene, the police would be waiting. We have seen photos of captured bachaqueros, sweeping streets with signs on their backs. An interesting measure.

But in the communes-in-process things are being taken a few steps further. In these communities where everyone knows each other and what each family is up to and can identify strangers and new arrivals, everything ends up being reported to the Communal Councils. I have attended meetings where people have identified by first and last name those policemen who took more than one bag of food under the premise of a Mercal operation. [I have heard] outrageous arguments between neighbors, one of whom defends his/her supposed right to re-sell, the other explaining that if they took more than their share it’s because they have multiple homes to maintain, while yet another proposes that two or three known bachaqueros be left out of the community’s plan to build and provide new homes in August. 

Here is when real politics comes into action, the genuine explanation for why and how Venezuelans are politicized. I have seen confessed bachaqueros addressing the Communal Councils or Commune parliaments [requesting that they] reverse course, asking the community to reconsider their being left out of new housing projects. How would organized Poder Popular deal with the promise “I won’t do it again?” That is for another chapter on this subject. But for the moment the point is made clear: the new social organizations founded by Chavismo are giving examples of their power. Communes that don’t even exist [on paper] are pushing people to discuss the real political situation, which is not what can been seen on television but what people are practicing during the intense difficulties of their day-to-day reality. 

So the proposal of Nicolas and Diosdado had already been activated by the legislative people, only with more depth, considering that their version of identifying and straightening out these delinquents has little to do with police and courts but rather the neighbors themselves: those people who share your experiences daily and know what you’re up to. 

Translated by venezuelanalysis.com.