05/10/12 La Salina, Vargas State

The library in the community center[RCG 05.10.12] 'Popular education is essential in order to develop the socialist process, the people, educated and conscious, have to be the protagonists of this construction, it is a crucial part of developing the vanguard' - Rafael Angulo Facilitator of ENFODEP and coordinator of the community newspaper 'El Salitre' in the coastal community of La Salina, Vargas State.

Drawing on the theory and practice of Paulo Freire, ENFODEP (Ensayo de Formacion de Educadores Populares, Formation of Popular Educators) has been developing the political reflection needed for sustained community action since 1991. We had the opportunity today to visit La Salina and speak with popular educators and protagonists in the communal councils.

Rafael Angulo, Facilitator of ENFODEPAs I have reported previously, Rafael and Ivonne Delgado began in the 1970’s and 1980’s as active members of ASOCITE (Asociacion Civil de Terepaima), a community organization and system of barrio committees founded in 1976 in La Vega, Caracas.

Primarily the experience of Rafael and Ivonne began with applying Paulo Friere’s methods of teaching literacy to communities of La Vega. Active in a time of extreme poverty and repression, the work of ASOCITE developed into a struggle for housing, education, and social rights, and included tactics such as hunger strikes, occupations of government offices, a newspaper, and a radical radio show.

Since 2000, Rafael and Ivonne have been working in Vargas State, playing their part in developing community education and grass-roots organisation in rural areas.

Popular educators, in the view of ENFODEP are not simply community workers or youth workers, but any member of the community who takes on the role of raising consciousness and critical thought of their family, co-workers, and neighbourhood.

This can only be achieved through self reflection, and action within a group. In this manner and with self financing from member and supporter donations, ENFODEP was created through the fusion of the ideas of ASOCITE and Paulo Freire cooperative.

A central part of the work centres around the Salvador Garmendia community library and cinema that we visited. The library is open every weekday for students to come and investigate coursework and seek advice with their studies.

The cinema functions every Thursday for adults and Saturday when young people come to watch free films. Rafael Angulo and Ivonne Delgado publish the community newspaper 'El Salitre' with input from the local population and have been key to bringing Mission Robinson, Mission Ribas and Mission Cultura to La Salina and neighbouring Puerto Carayaca.

Ivonne explained that 'before the library was opened in 2002, the people of La Salina had to travel to Catia La Mar for education, for books, now everyone can use this as a resource for critical thought'

Sindo Abal, a key activist in 'Sala de Batalla' which is driving forward the development of communal councils in the area, spoke to us about the role ENFODEP and popular education is playing in strengthening the work of the communal councils. 'We exist in order to diagnose the needs of the community, to discuss and plan how we can meet these needs, but we have to develop the consciousness, to ensure that people don't just come and ask for help, but are participants in developing the work, deepening the process'.

The disperse community is organised into three communal councils, 'Candelaria', 'La Gonzalera' and 'Cunaguto', Sindo explained that currently, through the 'Sala de Batalla' the communal councils are beginning the work required to form a comuna.

Sindo Abal, a key activist in 'Sala de Batalla' Sindo emphasised 'the communal councils all have the same role, to develop the process towards socialism, to develop national independence, to produce and meet our needs, we need to break with the institutions of the old capitalist state, to create popular power of the people from the bottom up'

Rafael detailed how all the community-based organisations are working to begin the work of the 'Great Patriotic Pole' (GPP) which was formed nationally in 2011 with the aim of integrating the diverse social movements, community organisations and collectives in each area, orientated to strengthen participatory democracy in the path towards socialism. 'The GPP is an alert call, for debate, discussion and development, it includes everything in the community, the communal councils, the social missions, against institutionalisation, the peoples organisations have to become more independent, more powerful so that we can ensure the government is at the service of the people.'

Chavez, speaking in January earlier this year stated 'We need unity, we have to create a network of regional and local networks, from the bottom-up, a new hegemony and historic bloc,' detailing that the GPP should work within three key areas, including; creating collective leadership within the revolutionary process and taking the revolution into public and grass-roots spaces.

As Rafael explained, 'for us in La Salina, the great role of the Patriotic Pole will begin the day after the elections, ensuring Chavez's election is our first priority, in order for the continuation of this work.

Some residents from the town also spoke with us about Bolivarian socialismThe first few years of the Chavez administration was focused on preparing the legal and social ground for the socialist process, developing popular education, legislating the necessary laws, then came the political fight to guarantee this process, against the oligarchy and US interference, through the 2002 coup, the oil lock outs, developing national independence and an anti imperialist bloc, now the fight will be to strengthen communal power.'

Of course, in order to achieve this the role of community educators is central, as Sindo highlights 'If we ask, what is socialism and how do we achieve it? we know that without education we can't achieve anything.'

Sam McGill