On Saturday June 7, residents from Isaias Medina Angarita community in Caracas held elections for their communal council, called “the Good Neighbour”. Formed at the end of 2006, the Good Neighbour was one of the first communal councils to be created in the area.
With revolutionary Venezuelan folk singer, Ali Primera, being played from the speakers of a nearby house, community members began to assemble at around 10am to elect members of the communal council’s “Community Financial Administration” and “Community Social Auditing” bodies. They also elected a series of spokespeople to form part of “working commissions,” which are aimed at developing community projects on a diverse range of issues, from community sports programmes to gender equality.
Held in a public alleyway in the heart of the barrio, organisers told Venezuelanalysis.com that having elections in the street was part of a recent strategy to make the communal council as accessible as possible to the community, as well as an attempt to reappropriate public spaces.
“We also try and rotate our meetings from place to place,” said communal council member, Javier Gomez.
Gomez has been a member of the Good Neighbour since it was first formed, and commented that one of the most positive aspects of taking part had been the impact on his home life.
“You listen to each other more and learn to respect each other, to think more about the needs of the other people who you live with,” he explained.
According to the organisers of the elections, total participation was higher than previous years, with 42-43% of residents (or 315 out of a potential 740) turning out to vote. They attributed the improved turnout to an increase in the amount of cultural activities that they had carried out in the community.
Jose Luis Mantilla, who was elected spokesperson of the Commission for Gender Equality, told Venezuelanalysis.com that one of the first projects that he would undertake as spokesperson would be an analysis of the communal council’s recent socio-economic census.
Mantilla stated that it was important to “get an idea of the ratios of men and women in the area and an idea of unemployment levels according to gender”.
“It’s true that women represent a high level of participation in the communal councils, but they haven’t been recognised in terms of the double labour that they carry out, both as workers and then in the home… I want to try and make sure that is valued,” he said.
The elections came to a close at around 4.30pm following a traditional Venezuelan lunch of “sancocho” or soup, prepared by one of the women in the community.