National Communal Parliament Meets for First Time in Venezuela

Reprinted from TeleSUR
Dec. 16, 2015

This first session of the Parliament aims to create a legislative mechanism through which the people can govern.

President of the Venezuelan National Assembly Diosdado Cabello presided Tuesday over the first gathering of the National Communal Parliament, a legislative body aimed at strengthening the role of grassroots decision-making structures known as communal councils and communes.

Cabello explained that the goal of the National Communal Parliament is to create a space that will allow the people to have access to resources, decision-making, laws, and “will allow the people to experience their way of life.”

Over the past decade, Venezuela has been witness to an explosion of grassroots structures and direct decision-making bodies, known as communal councils, where citizens can resolve their own local problems directly.

Community-identified priorities, such as the refurbishing of playgrounds and small infrastructure projects, can only commence with the approval of residents themselves.

Communal councils are organized into larger bodies known as communes, which can pool resources and engage in larger-scale projects.

Until the creation of the National Communal Parliament, these expressions of grassroots decision-making lacked a body at the national level.

These grassroots structures, referred to as “expressions of popular power” inside the country, are seen as a cornerstone of the Bolivarian Revolution in Venezuela.

The devolution of greater authority to citizens through the communes was also a major priority of the late president of Venezuela, Hugo Chavez.

The response of opponents of the Venezuelan government and Bolivarian Revolution was swift, with opposition politicians attempting to claim that the National Communal Parliament is a parallel body to the National Assembly and an attempt to subvert the results of parliamentary elections held on Dec. 6.

The concept of the National Communal Parliament, however, predates the results of the recent election that saw the socialist party and its allies lose its majority in the unicameral parliament for the first time in 16 years.

The law governing communal councils was approved in 2006, while the law concerning communes was approved in late 2010.

The National Communal Parliament is tasked with distinct responsibilities from the National Assembly, which are clearly outlined in the country’s constitution.

Since suffering the electoral setback, revolutionaries inside have been holding “street assemblies” to debate, exchange ideas, and strengthen the movement for socialism in Venezuela.

Cabello called on commune spokespeople participating in the National Communal Parliament to strengthen “popular power” inside their communities.

“The most important power there is, is the power of the communes. (There is) no other form of organization purer than the communes. Now it’s up to you (spokespeople) in the National Communal Parliament, which is in effect from this moment, to fight for the strengthening of communal power,” said Cabello.

The first meeting of the National Communal Parliament also coincided with the 16th anniversary of the approval of the 1999 Venezuelan constitution and was one of the last acts of the outgoing National Assembly.

The representatives for the new National Assembly, with its opposition majority, will take their seats on January 5, 2016.