The Cecosesola Cooperative Federation grew out of a practical necessity. Some fifty years ago, when a co-op member died, the other members founded a funeral home. Cecosesola now comprises a federation of more than fifty cooperatives, mainly providing food and medical services to hundreds of thousands of Venezuelans.
All 1,300 staff draw the same salary, and they reach their decisions by consensus without any hierarchical structure. The federation has no fewer than 23,000 active members in western Venezuela. They produce fruit and vegetables in their regions and run wholesale markets. In addition, they treat many hundreds of patients in their clinics and provide midwifery services. How does an enormous organization like this manage to operate as a co-operative, solving conflicts and reaching decisions for the common good by consensus? This report by Carmen Eckhardt highlights some extraordinary examples of community and solidarity - but also the struggle to survive in a country in crisis.