Caracas, Venezuela – A delegation of members from the Chicago Teachers Union (CTU) arrived in Caracas, Venezuela last week. Their goals were to learn what they could from Venezuela’s Bolivarian Revolution, exchange views on effective education and to show solidarity with the students, teachers and social movements of Venezuela.
The trip falls on the heels of a union resolution that was passed by the CTU Executive Board and House of Delegates. The resolution calls for an end to U.S. intervention in Venezuela. Delegation member and CTU Area Vice President Sarah Chambers explains, “Through major economic hardships, Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro never closed a single public school or a single health clinic. This stands in stark contrast to our experience in Chicago, where Mayor Rahm Emanuel closed 50 public schools and several mental health clinics in a single year.”
The teachers’ delegation met with leaders from the Venezuelan Foreign Ministry, Ministry of Communes, Ministry of Education, Adult Education Teachers, and students, as well as on-the-ground activists.
One important meeting was when the delegation sat down with Vladimir Castillo, the Venezuelan Director of International Affairs. They learned that Chavez started to talk about socialism in 2005, at the World Social Forum in Brazil, and that a few years after 2007 and 2008, community councils emerged as a result.
Community councils are comprised of around 100 families living in the same area, which estimates to about 400-500 people in total. Chavez also had communes in mind as a fundamental part of the new state. Communes are organizations encompassing several community councils. When communes began, there were a lot of difficulties to channel funds to them. They were neither part of the state nor corporations. They were just organized communities not able to exercise the full strength of their power. The government ended up creating a new set of laws, the Popular Power Laws, which allowed the government to provide money to them directly, which resulted in government-empowered communes.
Projects received different amounts depending on the needs and the scale of the projects. The funds would go to a communal account under the direct responsibility of two members of the communes, the supervision of the commune board, and the community as a whole. This is to ensure that the funds are being managed correctly and going to the stated projects.
Castillo stated that it was easier to form communes in the countryside, since many were naturally working together to farm and to produce goods. This also came naturally to indigenous people, since they often live in collective communities working together. The essence of communes was to produce goods and services, to obtain sustainability, and to address community issues in order for people to improve their own living conditions….