Citizen Referendums Create 169 New Communes in Venezuela

On Sunday local citizens voted to create 169 new communes, deepening efforts to create forms of communal organisation in the South American country. 

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On Sunday local citizens voted to create 169 new communes (Prensa MinComunas)
On Sunday local citizens voted to create 169 new communes (Prensa MinComunas)
By Ewan Robertson
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Mérida, 26th November 2013 (Venezuelanalysis.com) – On Sunday local citizens voted to create 169 new communes, deepening efforts to create forms of communal organisation in the South American country.

A recent national census found there are over 40,000 active community councils in Venezuela. These are local participatory bodies which develop their communities and can receive public funding. Communes are made up of groups of community councils, and can take on larger scale projects and economic activities.

Sunday’s communal elections saw the participation of 166,000 citizens and 2,244 community councils, who voted their new communes into formal existence and approved their founding documents.

“Turnout was very large, there was a lot of organisation in this process that was prepared for since August,” said Joel Alfonso, president of the government’s Foundation for Communal Power and Development (Fundacomunal).

The founding document acts as a commune’s constitution, sets out its development strategy, and its approval allows communes to register with the Ministry of Communes.

“The founding document is the life project of the communes, which is established through this referendum. The Founding Document establishes what needs exist in a commune, what its resources are, and of course, it sets out the strategies of the communal plan that should be constructed in all spaces,” explained Alfonso to state news agency AVN.

The official further argued that with this referendum, “Self-government has begun to be installed”.

According to Minister of Communes Reinaldo Iturriza, 452 communes have been formally created in Venezuela this year, with many more “under construction”. The government’s original aim was to support the creation of at least 450 communes by the end of 2019.

The country’s commune movement recently met in its first national conference, where commune activists from around the country sat in various discussion groups and displayed produce from their economic activities.

The Ministry of Communes is also looking to encourage middle class communities to engage in communal organisation, according to Fundacomunal president Alfonso.