Thirty three of more than sixty communal councils in Lara State heeded a call from Fundacomunal (Foundation for the Development & Promotion of Communal Power) to attend a special day-long session in Barquisimeto s Pedagogic University to discuss the latest changes in government social policy.
The main aim of the meeting revolved around a policy to introduce a new community and house-building scheme using auto-construction brigades. A lawyer from Caracas responsible for the central-western region and a member of the Francisco de Miranda Front (FFM) were present to explain how the new scheme will work and answer questions.
The scheme will eliminate contractors whose abuses ate up a greater part of the money handed over for projects or contractors and many of whom did complete the job or did it badly. The brigade is an exercise in Socialism with reliance on endogenous experts living in the community showing a spirit of solidarity and community service.
Lawyer Laura Sanchez highlighted a number of abuses that cropped up in the early years, such as unscrupulous council members on the make and others infiltrating to create divisions and mistrust. The key to the new scheme is the general assembly, then ultimate source of popular power, who must choose 30 members of the brigade preferably from people already trained in the Che Guevara Mission.
What is clear from the session I attended is that Fundacomunal has become more rigorous and cautious in approving projects and has renewed a commitment to accompany the councils in all stages of a project from beginning to end. Many of the participants criticized flaws in monitoring and providing training in past projects. There were certainly a lot of questions and the organizers had to pull the debate back to its purpose after several spokespersons complained about projects "put on ice" since 2006. The FFM member pointed out that when they started to work for Fundacomunal they found a monster and a lot of abuses which are being cleansed and tidied up after a heavy flight of fund money.
The organizers reminded those attending that 2010 will be declared the "Year of the Commune," which President Chavez hopes will be the new foundation of popular power.
BTW, brigade workers will be given an economic stimulus rather than a wage because of the community character of the works (refurbishing or building houses and/or community building), while voluntary work constitutes a key element in creating a Socialist conscience.
As stated throughout this article, Fundacomunal and other institutions are making a commitment to accompany the councils from day one until the end with lawyers, engineers and economists and promoters placing themselves at the service and orders of the councils.
In the afternoon the lawyer took the council reps through changes in the new bill.