An email to a friend and now to the world!
By Keegan Smith at Aug 24, 2009
A reply I just sent..
Great to hear you are in Venezuela. The first time I got there I was also looking to get some real life experience of what I was reading about. What I was reading about was empowering the poor at a local level and rearranging the economy at a national and international level to have the resources to empower the poor and move away from the demands of capitalism..
When I got there I saw people in the streets, maybe not as many as in Colombia but none the less. I saw rubbish and I saw a large informal economy. I saw high prices. I also saw new universities that are free to create these institutions under new ideological values for me was a miracle against the tide that has taken away free education in Europe and the former soviet block.
I saw new clinics staffed by Cuban's and venezuelan students in places where the elite doctors only went if forced as part of their studies. I met students who as part of their engineering degrees were working on projects in the barrios. Miracles.
I met young people of poor parents who were planning to be the first in their families history to go to university. They wanted to be teachers lawyers and doctors.
The polarization is in many ways inevitable as a society awakens. Some are going to move towards change and others are going to try to hold on to what they have. For the most part this is taking place across lines of wealth and race but not always. There are few white Chavistas and few black anti "Chavistas". This owes to the colonial roots that have never been removed.
In concrete terms they have freed the country of illiteracy and had their missions for education praised by UNESCO.. everybody in Venezuela has the opportunity to participate in programs to move from illiteracy to university for free over the course of about 10 years.
Poverty figures have been drastically reduced. Health figures improved. Inequality lessoned. Water quality improved. There is a long way to go in all this but the government won't do it all. Many of the processes especially the housing crisis can only be solved by community participation which is becoming increasingly useful in a formerly alienated population living under neoliberal domination.
Petrol, concrete, electricity, water, telecommunications, roads, health services, medicines and education all belong to the people. In this sense if those they elect manage them poorly the people are increasingly able to remove them.
Their system while still building as a participative democracy is attempting to end the days of elections every 4-7 years with no possibility for participation in between. One of the most concrete ways is that any elected official can be removed from his post. . including the president. To do this the people must collect signatures.. I think it's 15% of the effected population, they can then invoke a referendum to remove or keep the official under question. The happened against Chavez but he won by more than the first time so they haven't done it again.. maybe they will next year when he passes mid-term.
Chavez himself is a key figure in Venezuela but the revolution began with the Caracazo in 1989. It was the first and strongest rejection of neoliberalism the world has seen. Thousands were killed in the repression and millions of dollars of damage were done, the people had spoken and the government had responded. It was on the back of this wave that Chavez gained support in 1992 when he attempted a military coup. He was given 1 minute to speak on TV and in that minute he became a national hero. He was imprisoned but released by the president at the time as an attempt to legitimize himself and the system with an increasingly restless people welling below. When he was released he toured the country 4 times together with social movements and was put forward as there candidate in a broad coalition. The coalition was a blessing and a curse because he inherited a lot of bureaucracy.. over the last 10 years the country moved from a hollow neoliberal economy providing the elites with a miami lifestyle while leaving the rest to fight amongst their scraps. .
The Caracazo (which wasn't just in Caracas but lost of other cities too) was the most important event in all this. .equally in 2002 when the coup was staged the people spoke again. The revolution is much bigger than Chavez. venezuela will never again accept the path their elites want.. his supporters are increasingly better educated as they are encouraged to broaden their reading and living experiences.. education are pillars of the movement even more so than the economic reforms.
The agricultural revolution and the attempt to create a self sufficient countries are two things which also called my attention. If you get the chance to go to the country and visit a commune or agriculture centre make sure you let me know. ... Agriculture was dead when chavez arrived.. the venezuelan government had abandoned the country in terms of infrastructure.. roads, schools, health in the 1940s because their wealth creation depended on petrol . . aiming for self sufficiency and to create an attractive livable countryside has been one of the main challenges the Chavez administration has set itself. From an ecological, economical and defense point of view production is key but Chavez's own roots in the country probably have something to do with this. Caracas is ridiculous and the cities around it support most of the countries population while vast fertile plains go unharvested because the life their doesn't meet the needs of the people. Chavez himself was forced into the army and to the city to get an education. He loves the country and sees the need for a reversal of the trend of urban migration. Personally this is one of the most ambitious and important components of the revolution. I want to live the same process and I think that it's essential to creating a livable planet.
I could go all day mate.
The world is going in the wrong direction, capitalism requires competition for resources and war. A pacifist who lives content under capitalism isn't really a pacifist. Capitalism in its need for consumerism wipes out cultures and languages in the same way its agriculture creates desert from fertile land extinguishing species without even acknowledging their existence.
Starting with a rejection is a great place to be. From here you have to consider that changes can't be forced and wont come overnight. people have to be educated and be subjects in the process of change. Chavez can't do anything all he can do is try to create an environment in which the people can take on this all conquering system. The people are taking it on. It's our only hope. There is no perfect process but in principle I agree with the Bolivarian process the ALBA and Venezuela's path.. I agree with the way it is going although it needs to continue to turn the wheel in it's turn away from capitalism.
By turning the wheel it is under fire. Principally from it's own elite and its media. The opposition who want a return to the path of exploitation and destruction have the help of the CIA and other NGOs that are backed by government or private interests. The European Union wants the same. History is clear about what happens to anyone who steps out of the path of big business interests.. 10 years is a miracle. I don't think it can be undone.
There are some poor people who are against Chavez .. they have their reasons. You should try to ask as many people as you can what they think. If you get a colombian or a peruvian living there you might get some truth..
If you still accept the european way of life you are unlikely to find anything you like in Venezuela. If you put it in the context of the current global situation I think it's very hard not to see that it is the most hopeful process the world has seen in the last 200 years.
my 2 cents condensed as much as I could!
Keep enjoying yourself and learning!
You might be able to find a beautiful mind in Venezuela too if you get