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Hope in Venezuela
an article by Joe Yannielli

This summer I traveled to Venezuela. I found the people unbelievably hospitable. For a country that has so little, they went out of their way to make outsiders - and especially Americans - feel welcome.

While traveling in the Caracas area, I witnessed first-hand the devastating poverty endured by most Venezuelans. Thousands of small shacks constructed from scrap metal and odd pieces of plastic crowd the hillsides for miles outside the city. Clean water is hard to find. Medical care is practically non-existent in some areas, and illiteracy is still a big problem.

I also encountered some of the new programs initiated by President Hugo Chavez's coalition government. Venezuela is a country rich in natural resources, especially oil. Prior to Chavez, most of this wealth was controlled by an elite few. Now it is being redirected into grassroots "Missions" in the poorest areas of the country. I met with the volunteers of Mission Robinson, who are constructing small schools throughout the countryside to teach Venezuelans of all ages how to read and write. I saw women well into their 70s learning basic literacy skills for the first time. Other Missions provide basic heath care, or focus on building houses, or distribute cheap, clean food and water. All community development is overseen by Local Planning Councils, which have increased the transparency and accountability of the government.

One night I had dinner with Ana, a college student about my age. She was grateful for the opportunity to get a higher education, something she might not have been able to afford prior to Chavez. She was also excited about the spread of decent health care and that so many people were starting to learn how to participate in their government. She assured me that there were still many problems, and that it would be a long and very difficult process. But, when I asked for her overall impression of the new initiatives, she simply said: "Chavez is hope."

Venezuela was one of the first countries to offer help to the victims of Hurricane Katrina, pledging over $1 million in relief and 120 emergency aid specialists. Chavez's government is currently providing discount gasoline for needy families in the United States. When I heard of these offers, I was not surprised. Nothing could be more consistent with the new optimism of the Venezuelan people. More of us should take notice of the fledgling grassroots democracy in Venezuela, because it could be the start of a new chapter in the struggle for a global culture of peace.

For up-to-date info on the changes in Venezuela, see:


Question(s) related to this article:

What is your impression of the new direction being taken in Venezuela?,

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Latest reader comment:

Once again in the beginning of 2014 there are many demonstrations that seemed aimed at overthrowing the Venezuelan government.

Is the United States supporting them in order to abolish a leftist government in "its" hemisphere?

And for an assessment by Tom Hayden, a veteran peace activist of the US and a hero for many of us during the 60's, see his blog.

Hayden states that Obama may not be aware of it, "But there's another US "government", a secret network that works tirelessly to undermine any Latin American threat to the dominance of American capital and military power. They understand that the president must be provided with "plausible deniability", and so they keep Obama out of the loop. Sometimes they operate through the CIA, sometimes under Republican-Democratic "democracy promotion" programs, sometimes through third parties such as the Florida-based FTI Consulting. Democratic Party political consultants and pollsters have worked for Venezuela's opposition. It's difficult even for a president to keep a grip on it all. And that being the case, transparency disappears for the US Congress and public."

Who says there is no "culture of war"?

P.S.  In a similar vein, see the analysis by Eva Golinger.

On the other hand, there are complaints of human rights violations against the protesters by the police.

This report was posted on February 12, 2006.