Luis Tona is the young man directing Fundacomunal (Foundation for the Development & Promotion of Comunal Power) in the central-west Venezuelan state of Lara.Fundacomunal director Luis Tona
Despite being in office for just a couple a months, he and his team are leading a rectification rally to get the communal councils back on a revolutionary footing after a series of setbacks and mistakes uncovered during three months of intense consultations and debates with the councils on the communal council bill which has just passed its second reading in parliament.
Luis says the new bill has made improvements defining with greater precision the role of the councils and institutions, as well as fine-tuning touchy areas such as recall power.
The emphasis on Fundacomunal is to accompany the councils in planning projects, getting them up and running, securing proper training and ensuring everybody is accountable.
One of the major changes in the new law, Luis explained, is the elimination of the legal figure of cooperative which has become a millstone for the councils because of the many legal formalities demanded by the law on cooperatives. The councils themselves will administer funds received from Fundacomunal via the communal bank.
With the new vision there is a greater focus on aiming for and setting up the Commune, which President Chavez sees as the lodestar of popular power.
Luis insists that the key to success lies in a correct diagnosis of community needs and reality with the communal councils so as to present an integral approach that covers all aspects of the community concerned.
In other words, he declares, it's not just a matter of accepting a request to improve roads but also exploring and tapping possible productive activities and the real needs of the area. Fundacomunal itself, I was told, has developed a capacity of responding rapidly to problems confronting the councils.
When I asked Luis about the relation between the councils and the authorities, namely mayors and state governors, he replied that in general they were joining up to the process.
Summing up the state of popular movement or power in Lara State, young Tona used the word "mature" pointing to the history of the organized social and popular movements in Lara starting with the guerrilla movement in the sixties and seventies and popular organizations in the seventies and eighties.
However, I felt there is a still a hiatus to fill between the clandestine struggle which continued until the middle of the eighties and what happened between then and the arrival of Chavez in power.
Luis mentioned the NGOs of that period and funding from NED and USaid and I reminded him that the main funding organization for NGOs then was the US government Inter American Foundation (IAF).
Luis worked several years for Fondemi (Fund for Micro-enterprises) before being offered the demanding job of leading Fundacomunal to promote a Socialism that people can see as efficient and meaningful to their lives and future.
...something that is their very own!
Patrick J. O'Donoghue