[Marxism] The Chávez Hypothesis: Vicissitudes of a Strategic Project (Chris Gilbert)

Louis Proyect lnp3 at panix.com
Sat May 20 16:18:26 MDT 2017


"Just as the late Hugo Chávez did not create the Bolivarian Revolution, 
the Venezuelan state did not create the communes or the communal 
councils that they comprise."

George Cicariello-Maher


Special Report: Billions unaccounted for in Venezuela's communal 
giveaway program
By Brian Ellsworth | CATIA LA MAR, VENEZUELA

The neighborhood of El Chaparral began receiving cash from the 
Venezuelan government in 2005. The windfall came courtesy of the late 
socialist leader Hugo Chavez's plan to fight poverty by transferring 
billions of dollars in oil revenue to communities around the country.

Within a year, auto mechanic Juan Freire was urging authorities to cut 
off El Chaparral and its sister community of Los Pinos, with a combined 
population of 250. The money wasn't going to the needy, he says, and it 
wasn't sowing growth. Instead, Freire alleges, leaders of the community 
council in this mountain suburb were using some of the cash for personal 
expenses and to build houses for family members. He and neighbors filed 
complaints with nearly a dozen state agencies seeking a halt to the 

Yet the money kept rolling in: In 2008, the council received close to $1 
million - equal to about $4,000 a resident.

"When we filed complaints, the responses would always be something like, 
‘We'll send some recommendations,'" said Freire, 57. "They never gave us 

The unsupervised spending in El Chaparral is symptomatic of a vast 
community aid effort with lax financial controls. A network of more than 
70,000 community groups has received the equivalent of at least $7.9 
billion since 2006 from the federal agency that provides much of the 
financing for the program, Reuters calculates, based on official 
government reports.

The money is part of a broad government effort called the "communal 
state" that steers funds to communities, primarily through an outfit 
called the Autonomous National Fund for Community Councils, or Safonacc. 
But exactly how much money passes through this system, who gets it and 
how it's used are largely a mystery.

The communal revenue-sharing program was championed by the late Chavez. 
The charismatic former military officer wanted small neighborhood groups 
to form "communes" that would define civic life and anchor a 
citizen-driven socialist democracy. In one of his last speeches before 
dying of cancer in 2013, Chavez tasked his handpicked successor, Nicolas 
Maduro, with advancing the plan.

"I entrust this to you as I would my life," he told Maduro, a former bus 
driver who narrowly won election last year.

The most common of such organizations are the community councils, which 
number about 40,000, according to a 2013 Communes Ministry study. The 
study also identified another 30,000 such organizations, including 
networks of community councils.


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