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News ::
21 Jul 2003
Plan Benefits Poor, Working People

By Andy McInerney
Via Workers World News Service
Reprinted from the July 24, 2003
issue of Workers World newspaper

Plan Benefits Poor, Working People

By Andy McInerney

When Venezuelan President Hugo Chávez was first elected in 1998,
millions of Venezuelan poor and working people put their hopes on him to build a government capable of advancing their interests. Four and a half years later, despite fierce resistance on the part of the South American country's economic elite, the Chávez government is attempting to address the needs of the 80 percent of the population who live in poverty amid vast oil and mineral wealth.

July 5 is celebrated as Venezuela's Independence Day, commemorating the day in 1811 when Simón Bolívar declared independence from Spain of the region that now includes Venezuela, Colombia and Ecuador. Chávez has named the movement that his election campaign launched as a "Bolívarian Revolution," invoking Simon Bolívar's legacy of national liberation struggle and Latin American unity.

This July 5, tens of thousands of Chávez supporters took to the streets of Caracas to celebrate the accomplishments of the Bolívarian
Revolution. President Hugo Chávez took the opportunity to promote the
"Into the Neighborhood" Plan--in Spanish, Plan Barrio Adentro.

"Into the Neighborhood" is an ambitious program aimed at addressing the needs of Venezuela's poorest citizens. It began with a literacy campaign targeting 1 million Venezuelans who cannot read or write. This campaign involves the Ministry of Education, the National Institute of Cooperative Education and the Venezuelan Armed Forces.

"In the first stage, in July, we will teach 120,000 people to read and
write," announced President Chávez. "We are going to wage this battle by land, sea and air, and we will reach every person who needs our help."

Named "Mission Robinson" after Samuel Robinson, Simon Bolívar's teacher, the campaign involves at least 50,000 volunteers, as well as some incentives for families that participate, like small loans from state-owned banks. Prisoners who help fellow prisoners learn to read and write may earn reduced sentences, according to a July 2 IPS report.

One component of the literacy campaign will be "family libraries"
containing 25 books of Venezuelan and Latin Amer ican literature to be
donated to 550,000 children who complete the sixth grade.

Another axis of the "Into the Neigh borhood" Plan is a wide-reaching
healthcare program, also aimed at the poorest neighborhoods in the
country. Fernando Bianco, president of the Metropolitan Medical School
in Caracas, explained the program on the July 6 radio program "Hello
President." The plan "can be the reestablishment of the primary
healthcare system in the country, which is non-existent." He projected
that the plan would assist over 1 million people.


Key to both aspects of the "Into the Neighborhood" Plan is the
solidarity of the Cuban government and the Cuban people. For example,
the health care program will benefit from 300 new Cuban health
professionals deployed in the poorest neighborhoods--bringing the total number of Cuban medical personnel in Venezuela to 800, according to a July 7 Xinhua report.

The Cuban government will also provide 80 education specialists and
other materials for the literacy drive. "An 'army of light' is working
for us in Cuba," Chávez announced on July 2, "rapidly producing copies
of videos and reading primers. ... In addition, President Fidel Castro
ordered the donation of 50,000 TV sets that we will use in the program, the first 23,000 of which have already arrived."

The Venezuelan ruling classes, which still hold a virtual monopoly on
the media and major parts of the economy, have attempted to demonize the "Into the Neighborhood" Plan. Acting on these provocations, rightist thugs firebombed a mobile clinic in Caracas on July 7.

To date, however, the Venezuelan Revolution continues to advance in the face of attacks by supporters of the old ruling class.

The "Into the Neighborhood" program is a sign that the Chávez government is deepening the working-class basis of the Bolívarian Revolution, strengthening its roots among the most oppressed--and gathering strength against the forces of counter-revolution that continue to try to topple the Chávez government.

- END -

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