Venezuela: Citizen referendums create new communes

Monday, December 2, 2013

Local citizens voted to create 169 new communes on November 24, deepening efforts to create forms of communal organisation in the South American country.

A recent national census found there are more that 40,000 active communal councils in Venezuela. These are local participatory bodies that develop their communities and can receive public funding.

Communes are based on groups of communal councils, and can take on larger -scale projects and economic activities.

The commune elections on November 24 involved 166,000 citizens and 2244 communal councils. They voted to formally create their new communes and approved their founding documents.

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

A 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,” Alfonso told state news agency AVN. “The founding document establishes what needs to 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.”

Alfonso said that, with this referendum, “self-government has begun to be installed”.

Minister of Communes Reinaldo Iturriza said 452 communes have been formally created in Venezuela this year, and many more are “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, Alfonso said.

[Reprinted from Venezuela Analysis.]

From GLW issue 991