Venezuelan activists form regional councils for 'communal governance'

Monday, August 25, 2014
Members of the community in Isais Medina Angarita in the state of Sucre look at a list of candidates for a communal council election in June. Photo by Rachael Boothryood/Venezuela Analysis.

Across Venezuela, commune activists are creating regional Presidential Councils of Communal Governance in order to play an greater role in the management of local and regional affairs in conjunction with national authorities.

Communes in Venezuela are made up of representatives of groups of smaller communal councils. These councils are direct participatory organisations that help manage community affairs. Communes cover a larger territorial area than communal councils and can receive public funds for larger scale projects and responsibilities.

There are now 778 communes registered in the Venezuela more than 40,000 communal councils. The number of registered communes has grown rapidly over the past year.

The creation of regional councils came after President Nicolas Maduro travelled to the western state of Lara last month to install the first such council.

The councils are intended to be made up of representatives of each commune in a regional state, as well as representatives from national government institutions and social programs.

The communes ministry says these councils will be conduits of consultation and debate in order to influence national executive decision making. They also aim to help design strategies to effect a transition to a “communal state”. In such a state, powers and responsibilities are transferred from municipal and regional state governments to community councils and communes.

A national Presidential Council of Communal Governance and an independent National Communard Council were created earlier this year.

During the installation of the first regional council, Maduro said the creation of a “communal state” meant transforming the existing “capitalist state”.

“I’m working on a plan for the total transformation of the state and the remains of the bourgeois state that are still there, full of bureaucracy, corruption, indolence, slowness and abandonment,” Maduro said to representatives of 470 communes in a televised address.

“We have to change it all and the only way to do that is with the conscious people … This presidential council will be a governmental organisation where the communes will have protagonism in important issues like public, social and economic policy, to advance in the construction of socialism.”

Since Maduro created the first regional council in mid-July, a series of meetings involving about 2600 commune spokespeople have been held. This rhas resulted in the formation of similar councils in 21 of the country’s 24 states.

Once the councils are fully formed in each state, activists expect a national meeting will be held with Maduro to plan the next phase of action.

A report by said that, during these meetings, commune activists decided that the three main priorities for the movement toward a communal state were the deepening of popular organisation, the transfer of services, responsibilities and property to communes, and the promotion of communal economic activity.

National authorities are also evaluating proposals to allow communes to buy foreign currency as part of their economic activities through state currency controls.

The communes ministry is considering the first requests from 25 communes to transfer control to them over some local goods and services in the areas of health, education, waste management, infrastructure and agricultural development.

One obstacle identified by many communal activists toward progress in their movement’s goals is the alleged resistance or incompetency of some civil servants or state entities. Many complaints of “bureaucracy”, “inefficiency” and “lack of commitment” were made.

Aporrea reported that commune spokesperson said communal members’ own abilities would also be key to the project’s success. One participant in a meeting of commune activists in Merida said: “We have to be prepared, creative, and to permanently educate and train ourselves to orientate planning policies.”

[Reprinted from Venezuela Analysis.]

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From GLW issue 1022