The Community Asamblea Process

A community asamblea in Peru
Photo credit: Claudia Behnke

Since I’ve mentioned it in previous posts, I thought I would give a brief description of what a community asamblea is and why it is so important in Cusco and for my organization, Amigos de las Americas.

First of all, think of a community asamblea like a local town meeting in terms of its democratic process – meeting times are pre-arranged, if you have an issue, you can ask to be put on the agenda and there is a moderator. Finally, what the assembly says, by verbal vote or by ballot, is law. In Peru, this is how all important community decisions are made. Most community asambleas are held at the same time every month – in some communities they occur on the last Sunday of every month and in other communities they occur around mid-month. Usually, they occur on Sundays as that is the only time when most people are not working.

In order for a vote to count at an asamblea, quorum must be established. Without quorum, action cannot be taken. Community asambleas can either be “asambleas ordinarias” or “asambleas extraodinarias,” with the former occurring on a regularly scheduled date (usually on a monthly basis) and the latter occurring when the Junta Directiva (governing body) of a community calls an urgent meeting.

Adapting to the community asamblea schedule represents one of the most important ways in which AMIGOS has been able to adapt itself to working in Peru. In 2011, AMIGOS’ initial lack of awareness about the necessity of going through community asambleas for everything made it necessary to go through the process of calling an asamblea extraordinaria, which severely limited the options for potential host communities because many community presidents were unwilling to call asambleas extraordinarias because of their disruptiveness to the community’s agricultural work schedule (especially during the harvest season in May-June).

In 2012, AMIGOS staff attempted to attend as many of the regularly scheduled asambleas as possible in order to respect traditional community structures and timelines.

Posted by Samantha Balaban – MA Candidate at CLACS / Global Journalism at NYU

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