In a national census held over September 7 and 8, 1150 communes registered in a national census, exceeding expectations.
The communes are forms of “popular power” in Venezuela that unite representatives of local communal councils across a regional area. Community councils in Venezuela are grassroots bodies where local residents manage public funds and undertake projects promoting community development.
Communes, meanwhile, are formed by groups of community councils, and can take on larger scale projects and public works.
Minister for Communes Reinaldo Iturriza told state television channel VTV on September 8: “[This] is a reaffirmation of what is set out in the Constitution of the Republic. It is the participatory and protagonistic democracy that is more alive than ever, despite what the doomsayers say.”
The communes were registered as part of a national census of communes and community councils. The figure likely includes both established communes and those still being built.
The aim of the census is for the government to find out how many community councils and communes exist in Venezuela and to ensure the accuracy of official statistics on community organisation.
Iturriza said the census is also “qualitative” and part of the national executive’s effort to assess progress in building participatory forms of community planning.
Census registrations took place using a free software system in more than 1200 schools and Infocentros (free government-run internet cafes).
As of the afternoon of September 8, 31,670 community councils, 16,005 social movements and 1032 “social battle groups” had also registered. The final numbers are likely to be higher, with queues remaining in some centres and possible plans to extend census efforts in more geographically isolated areas.
Mary Sanchez, a spokesperson for the Pedrera II community council in the city of Maracay, Aragua state, launched a call for those community councils that had not yet registered in the census to do so. “Let’s all do community work and work in a team to reach socialism from below,” she said on VTV.
President Nicolas Maduro lauded the census as a “tremendous event”, saying: “Fascism is defeated with work and the concrete advances of grassroots power, everyone to concentrate forces on the communes now!”
The director of information and technology systems for the Ministry of Communes, Feijoo Jimenez, explained to ALBA Ciudad radio on September 6 that the government is pushing the formation of communes as a means for communities to “administer their own resources, projects and activities”.
Jimenez said it is hoped this would help combat corruption and bureaucracy in representative forms of local government and overcome a “wearing out” of the Bolivarian movement.
The Ministry of Communes has also launched a website, “Inside the Commune”, which features testimonies of commune activists and shares information about experiences of communal organisation in the country.
Iturriza said the website had been created “so that the Venezuelan people know about the realities of people’s power, its achievements, mistakes and projects, pushed forward by these fighting men and women, [who are] creators of the Communal State”.
Other initiatives to support participatory democratic forms include the creation of a TV channel for communes and a presidential commission to ensure that each ministry has a policy focused on directly attending to the communes in construction.
[Reprinted from Venezuela Analysis.]