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‘National Popular Consultation’: Voters Choose State-Funded Projects

Above photo: Venezuela’s grassroots collectives have diagnosed local issues to be addressed. Ministry of Communes.

The National Popular Consultation will lead to the selection of 4,500 local projects that will be assigned US $10,000 each.

The Venezuelan people are called to the polls on Sunday, April 21, to decide on projects that will receive government support.

The so-called “National Popular Consultation” will be held in 4,500 communal circuits spanning the entire Venezuelan territory. Each circuit is centered in a commune, an assembly-driven popular power organization.

All citizens 15 and above are eligible to participate. Venezuela’s National Electoral Council (CNE) will oversee the election in over 15,000 voting centers but without automatic voting machines.

Communal organizations held local assemblies in recent weeks and defined up to seven projects to be voted on on Sunday. The Nicolás Maduro government will fund each of the 4,500 winning initiatives with an approximate budget of US $10,000. Grassroots collectives will then be responsible for executing projects and rendering accounts.

The communal circuits submitted the proposals through the SINCO digital platform, with activists campaigning in recent days to publicize the vote and argue in favor of their favored options.

Projects vary significantly in scope, from developing means of production to addressing public service shortages. In El Panal Commune in western Caracas, voters will be asked to choose between acquiring machinery to produce tomato paste, an ambulance or fumigation equipment. In contrast, the Lanceros Atures Commune in Lara state offers seven options including the purchase of public transportation units, building a new well or completing construction works in a local school.

Earlier this week, Communes Minister Guy Vernáez stated that the consultation is not an exercise by a specific political group and urged people to take part.

“The April 21 vote will be a demonstration of popular will, a demonstration of the vibrancy of popular organizations,” he said in a press conference. Vernáez emphasized that the election is an opportunity for communities to identify the most pressing needs in their territories.

Several institutional bodies, including the Ministry of Communes, governor’s offices and the Communes Commission of the Venezuelan National Assembly, have likewise deployed promotional teams to help organize the consultation.

Sunday’s vote is an expanded version of a consultation organized by the Miranda governorship in 2022 and 2023. In those cases, the territory was divided into parishes and likewise counted on the CNE infrastructure. The 2023 vote saw 64 projects approved, with the Héctor Rodríguez regional government pledging $1 million for their execution.

Former President Hugo Chávez proposed communes as “unit cells” for the construction of socialism in Venezuela. They are meant to be democratic, assembly-based, self-government organizations in the territory with the long-term goal of assuming ownership of means of production and public services.

Venezuela’s years-long economic crisis, heavily compounded by US sanctions, saw popular organization ebb significantly as grassroots collectives suffered from precarious living conditions, migration and dried-out state support.

However, in recent years there has been a strengthening of communal dynamics in certain contexts, with initiatives such as the Communard Union which aims to bring together popular power organizations on a national scale. Venezuela’s modest economic recovery since 2021 has also led to an uptick in state funding.

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