Communes in Venezuela now have a tool to boost and integrate their production: the platform Hecho en Comuna (Made in Commune, in Portuguese) brings together products made by communes on a website under the brand that bears the same name to reach the entire Venezuelan population. Spearheaded by the Ministry of Communes, the system emerged with the aim of expanding the scope of production and establishing an alternative process for producers.

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The website was launched in December 2023 and developed from the brand created by the government in October 2022. Also called Hecho en Comuna, the project helped to systematize communes’ production information, speed up and monitor certificates and licenses.

For the leader of União Comunera Juan Lenzo, the platform created by the government helps boost production and is another step on a long path towards the stabilization of communes in the Venezuelan economy.

“It is a brand that unifies communal production, which guarantees a distribution policy for communal production with a greater possibility that the State will recognize it and offer a protectionist policy. They are working on brands for products, packaging, marketing and distribution. This will undoubtedly help to increase levels and boost production, these are stimuli and incentives. But there is still a long way to go to stabilize communal production that has a strong and competitive presence in the Venezuelan market,” he told Brazil in fact.

The platform created by the government seeks to value the diversity of products that are made in the communities. If before they were focused on primary production, today these groups also have semi-industrial and artisanal production, in addition to having occupied a space that was previously occupied by city halls and state governments through the provision of services.

In addition to some communes having self-sufficient management that guarantees, in some cases, the necessary supplies for their members, the groups also helped the country when the crisis deepened. Lenzo states that between 2017 and 2020 the communes helped Venezuela escape a serious shortage problem.

“At the hardest moment of the crisis there was a time of food shortages. There was a boycott, pressure, a business strategy against the government. Meanwhile, food consumption in the country was supported by small producers and family members. This is invisible. Between 60 and 70% of primary production during these years was covered by small and medium producers and communal production. This is data from the Ministry of Food,” he told the Brazil in fact.

::What is happening in Venezuela?::

The process to achieve a decentralized supply network began during Chávez’s presidency. With the creation of the Ministries of Food and Communes, the government implemented a distribution network that guaranteed supply to the population. According to a report from the UN Food and Agriculture Agency (FAO), food availability increased by 49.6% from 1999 to 2012.

But production and distribution took a hit during the deepest periods of the crisis. With the sanctions lifted by the United States against Venezuelan companies, the rate of malnourished people has exploded in the country. FAO disclosed in its latest Report on the State of Food Security and Nutrition in the world in 2020 that malnutrition affected only 2.5% of Venezuelans in 2012. This number rose to 31.4% in 2019, after the beginning of the blockade. According to the UN, malnutrition is characterized as an insufficient consumption of food consumed for an active and healthy life.

Commune politics

Almost 25 years after former president Hugo Chávez took power, communes have become a fundamental tool for guaranteeing income and food for part of the Venezuelan population. The country’s self-management system has become a fundamental point for Venezuela’s supply and for escaping a trap imposed by the international market: dependence on oil exports.

The allocation of communes’ resources is also done collectively, through popular assemblies. The groups also have control and transparency tools for the money used for investments. According to Ali Guevara, member of the Simón Rodríguez communal council, the importance of production is also political.

“Communes have a very successful experience because it is the people who manage resources efficiently. We can do many things with few resources. This also has a feeling of belonging, because the people feel like they are agents of transformation,” she said. But the idea of ​​communes was adapted over time until it reached the concept of today. After implementing the cooperative model, Hugo Chávez begins to study the limitations and implications of this model.

“Chávez begins to plan the idea of ​​building communal companies, in addition to the cooperative model because they would be companies linked to communal governments, whose surpluses should be destined for communal government works and should be linked to politics,” Lenzo told Brazil in fact.

The then president arrived at the conception of 4 structures: companies of direct communal social ownership, family production units, exchange groups or companies of indirect communal social ownership, which are mixed companies with half administered by the State and half by the commune.

Today, in addition to being a form of economic and political management, “commune” production has also become an alternative form of dependence on oil exports.

“Venezuela cannot continue to be a mono-producing country, depending on oil income. We have to look for other sources of income, and the lockdowns forced this need on us. And we also provide sources of work, resources that can be recycled and this allows us to reduce costs”, said Ali Guevara.

A tool that became important for resource management was the Communal Bank. Each commune has a unit, a space that concentrates the administration of resources. The bank centralizes the surpluses of a production unit, government financing and plans their use for productive investment, for the execution of the government of that commune.

However, the country’s economic conditions today mean that producers have to hand over a large part of the surplus to the private sector. “They are private owners who have large distribution chains nationwide. And they end up buying very cheaply and selling very expensively in the market. Therefore, there is the exploitation of labor power on the one hand and labor power for prices on the other. It is a very powerful sector, which has trucks and logistics infrastructure to boost it”, said Lenzo.

Editing: Lucas Estanislau


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