Peoples Dispatch: Could you tell us a bit about the organization you work with?
Ana Maldonado: The organization, Frente Francisco de Miranda, was founded on June 29, 2003, when a first round of 858 youth went to Cuba for a training course. During this first round, commander Chávez and Fidel agreed to baptize, to found this organization as a force to carry out grassroots work with militants whose main task was to work on social missions.
In fact, the first mission in which it participated was the Identity Mission. At the time, In Venezuela, there were around more than 2 million people without an identity card. It was part of the same syndrome of oppression, in other words, they could not vote, nor have access to a lot of things they needed simply because of the issue of identity.
Now, we are some 50,000 Bolivarian social fighters who have become part of the organization. Throughout all these years, the training has continued in Cuba. The Robinsonian National School (the Robinsonian schools are schools based in the thinking of Simón Rodriguez, who assumed the name Simón Robinson in exile, and was the teacher of Simón Bolívar. They are focused on in-depth training in technical and productive vocations) has also been opened as part of the training process for the incorporation of the new fighters and also of the grassroots militancy and the leadership of the front. We continued to work on the missions that were gradually founded.
PD: How is the process of building people’s power in Venezuela carried out?
AM: Well let me start with some basic relevant facts. For instance, there are currently some 46,000 communal councils in the country. A communal council is not just another organization. It is a territorial authority that is created and brings together an average of 400 families. The central piece of the councils are the committees which can include health committees, water committees, urban land committees and others that address distinct necessities. Thanks to the Bolivarian Revolution, the necessities like water, health, land, education and others are or have the possibility of becoming a right. So the base of the communal councils are the needs-based committees.
Then, beyond the basic committees, there is a community coordination collective which has the task of planning and organizing. They also create the territorial plan of the communal council. They talk about questions like, what kind of community do they have? What is the community they dream of?
Now, as a result of this process of creating communal councils, we already have more than 2,000 communes which are a level above and comprised of neighborhoods and communal councils. Within the communal councils, you have the diversity of the population – the people live there, whether they work in organizations or not.
One of the aspects that we hope comes out of this constituent process, is that the legislation regarding the communes and the communal councils can be brought to a constitutional level.
The commune as an entity can exercise self-government and direct democracy. Already, a lot of power has been transferred or restored to the people in terms of allocation of collective and family lands. Then, for example with resources to build houses, they go directly to the people so they can learn the trade while creating their own home. These are some examples of self-government.
PD: Despite all the unconventional warfare that has been waged against the Bolivarian Revolution over the past five years and especially the past three years, it has managed to survive. What do you think is the reason for its resilience?
AM: The answer to this question lies in the organization that took place from the very beginning of the Bolivarian Revolution. When the organized people had a demand – to make changes in their neighborhoods and communities, Commander Chavéz said, Ok perfect, we will transfer the resources directly to the people, to build a street, for example. However, in order for this to happen, there has to be organization.
Two years ago, the Local Committees of Supply and Production (CLAP) were created and they are part of the self-governing authority. There are 26,000 of them at the moment. Every week, the assembly of the CLAPs is organized in different communities to determine per household, a “combo”. The “combo” is a diversity of basic foods at regulated price, at a subsidized price preferential to each of the families. A part of the public market and supply network has been replaced with this organized way of distribution. There is a structure that involves families, and communities, organized by each street. Each CLAP knows the number of families to whom it has to distribute the food.
This whole process has been very important because the constant element in all of these years is the organized people. The people, through the fundamental processes of organization and political education, learn that they have rights. In Venezuela, the people have the right to exercise self-government in the territories. This is fundamental in the concept of Socialism of the 21st Century that Commander Chávez spoke of, and President Nicolás Maduro has also emphasized this.
One of the fundamental contributions has been to move beyond the traditional subject of the revolution of the 20th century – the industrial subject [worker]. Here in Venezuela, there is a multiplicity of subjects. Organized people are taking power and exercising direct democracy. With the blockade and siege we are facing at the hands of the United States and the European Union, the Local Committees of Supply and Production allow the State to guarantee that families have access to food when it has become impossible by normal ways.
The challenge for the Local Committees of Supply and Production at this time is fundamentally food security. The jump we have to give is towards food sovereignty so that each of these local committees also produces what it needs to supply.
If you come to Venezuela, you will see a number of experiences of how local committees not only distribute and achieve self-sufficiency, but also produce, which is a great challenge.
The joy of living and experiencing the possibility of changing things, of strengthening the revolution is lived every day in Venezuela.
PD: Could you talk a little about the Government’s proposals to combat the economic crisis?
AM: There are three issues to highlight here. One of them is on the “economic adjustment programs” which are fundamentally based on cuts, not only because they come from the International Monetary Fund and the World Bank. The plan from the government is based on expansion and strengthening the currency. And it’s not just about strengthening the conversion capacity of the currency, but also ensuring an anchor to peg the currency to, which is the Petro. The Petro is then anchored to petroleum.
There are 5 billion barrels of certified petrol in the Orinoco Belt. The Petro is based on that reserve, on petroleum that exists, not some fake money. Then, the Petro also strengthens the Sovereign Bolivar.
The plan is also is based on expansion because it strengthens the salary of workers by re-evaluating how salaries for the past several decades have turned into different bonuses, benefits and pensions.
Another issue is tackling price fraud. In order to understand this, I’ll give an example. Take Coca-Cola, which is something absurd that we do not need, but there has been such price fraud for the product. A Coca-Cola in Venezuela came to cost 21 million bolivars, i.e. 210 sovereign bolivars or 3 dollars 50 cents. Whereas,in the rest of the world, on average, it’s worth is 2 dollars. The same price fraud also happened with several other basic commodities.
In August, after the the Program of Economic Recovery, Growth and Prosperity was launched, I had the honor to work in the communities in Caracas to help maintain the prices that were agreed upon and ensured that price increases did not surpass 30% from one week to the next.
What happens is that the economic and financial blockade also prevents information from going out. So thank you for this interview.