Hugo Chávez today leads one of the most progressive governments in the world. Collaborating with organisations of working people, the poor and dispossessed, the Venezuelan government has implemented major social reforms, transforming the lives of millions. This stands in stark contrast to the attacks on services, living standards and jobs being endured by people in Scotland.
Venezuela — democracy and social progress
For decades most Venezuelans lived in poverty, in barrios (shanty towns) with unreliable electricity, unsafe water and desperately inadequate public services. Now ordinary people’s lives are being transformed.
Inspiring social changes include:
• More than 2.7 million Venezuelans have been lifted out of poverty since 1998, with extreme poverty halved.
• Over 17 million people now have access to free healthcare for the first time, saving up to 300,000 lives.
• Over 1.6 million adults have benefited from literacy campaigns with illiteracy now abolished according to UNESCO standards.
• Access to clean drinking water has increased from 80% in 1998 to over 92% today, benefitting more than 6 million people.
• 98% of Venezuelans now eat three times per day thanks to government provision of subsidised food and free school meals.
• New rights for working people — Venezuela’s minimum
wage is now the highest in Latin America, with recently announced increases.
• The creation of a Women’s Development Bank and new Ministry for Women, giving opportunities to millions.
• Historic racism is being tackled with new rights for indigenous people and other black and minority ethnic communities.
• The expansion of the El Sistema programme, which provides free musical education to thousands of children from poor backgrounds and is the model for the acclaimed Big Noise Programme in Raploch, Stirling.
Due to these policies, Venezuela has met the UN Millennium Development Goals six years ahead of schedule, whilst many countries are decades behind.
These changes have received enormous democratic approval. Chávez and his supporters have won fourteen national elections and referenda since 1998. In the last presidential election in December 2006, Chávez received an incredible 63% of the vote.
Democratic involvement in Venezuela has increased, with millions of previously excluded people being enfranchised.
Grassroots democracy has also been expanded with the formation and funding of thousands of “Community Councils” across the country.
Freeing Latin America and the Caribbean from exploitation
Venezuela is seen as a beacon of hope and social progress across the region, encouraging regional co-operation as an alternative to decades of US domination and neo-liberalism.
Venezuela’s inspiring work internationally includes:
• ‘Operation Miracle’, which has so far provided free eye operations to 2 million poor people in Latin America, the Caribbean and now Africa.
• Supplying oil at preferential prices to 13 Latin American and Caribbean countries to help their economies, and subsidised heating oil to poor communities in the US.
• The mutually beneficial ALBA (‘Bolivarian Alternative for the Americas’) agreement with other nations, putting social development and poverty reduction ahead of private profit; an alternative to the US promoted Free Trade Area of the Americas.
Threats to Venezuela
The old ruling oligarchy and their allies in the US do not intend to allow Chávez to continue to redistribute power and wealth.
Numerous attempts to destabilise and overthrow Venezuela’s democratically elected government have taken place.
The US supported a failed military coup in 2002 and subsequently organised attempts to sabotage the oil industry — the mainstay of the economy. Today, Venezuela’s right-wing opposition continues to hold democracy and the rule of law in contempt.
Alongside this, opponents of Venezuela’s government have orchestrated a sustained international media campaign of distortion and misrepresentation against the Chavez-led government. Within Venezuela, there is great concern that such international demonisation could be used as a pretext for further intervention and ‘regime change.’ In recent years the United States has been building up it’s military presence in South America.
Now is the time to show solidarity with the Venezuelan people —