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What are the gains of the ongoing Bolivarian revolution in Venezuela? An American can get info in Spanish and English by following links from www.cpusa.org, or they visit and see for themselves as several hundred of us did during the last Venezuelan presidential election, December 3. It is a vast understatement to say that we were impressed! Here are some of the gains that we witnessed:
If, as Thomas Jefferson said, an enlightened population is necessary for democracy, then the Venezuelans are clearly better prepared than they were in 1998 when Hugo Chavez first became President. "El Proceso," the process, is explained by everyone we met. Their awareness that nothing is fixed, that everything is changing, is basic to any kind of understanding. The Bolivarian process has eliminated illiteracy! Thousands of new schools have been built. Every day, Venezuelans have access to uncensored newspapers and other news media. Many of them still complain that the old-style "opposition" rich oligarchy still controls the commercial media, but we visited new, non-commercial, newspapers, television and radio stations. One of the most exciting developments is the new continent-wide satellite television station, Telesur, which is available in the U.S. through the web site, http://www.telesurtv.net.
Northamericans will be particularly interested in the new trade relations that Venezuela is establishing in Latin America, in the Caribbean, and with the rest of the world. It is fundamental to the democracy movement in every Latin American country, and especially in Venezuela, to reject the demands of giant transnational corporations for profits without regard to workers or their air and water. International trade agreements are being concluded with high regard for the well-being of all the people involved. Venezuela, with the world's largest proven reserves of petroleum and vast water resources, makes a wonderful trading partner. With Venezuela leading, a number of Latin American countries are now rejecting the so-called "free trade" agreements that have led, in the U.S. and abroad, to lost jobs, lower wages, more migration, and more pollution!
While confidence may be difficult to quantify, it is undeniable on the streets of Venezuela. People wear shirts declaring their devotion to the Bolivarian Process and/or defiantly describing President Bush and imperialism. One might have thought that Venezuelans would be afraid, given the centuries of imperialist oppression that dominates their history. One young man in Bolivar Park told me that everybody, "todo el mundo," would fight if the U.S. invaded. He said that Venezuelans are all born guerillas. "It's in our blood!" he told me enthusiastically. Another man, aged 50, told me that he would enlist in the armed services on a moment's notice if needed. A spokesperson for the Venezuelan Communist Party in one of the surrounding towns told us that Hugo Chavez was second only to Fidel Castro as the most respected leader in the world. "The Arabs consider Chavez their President," he told us.
Venezuelans know who their enemies are, and they aren't afraid!
Observers from all over the world minutely examined the election process around December 3. They concluded unanimously that elections were fair. In many ways, compared to policies in the U.S., they are more than fair. For example, alcoholic beverage sales are suspended for three days around the election! Subway rides are free! People line up at 9 PM on the night before the election and continue lining up until virtually everyone can proudly display one finger purple-dyed by election officials, signifying that they voted once and only once. Chavez supporters joined in urging a big turnout, and they were rewarded with the largest turnout, 75%, in Venezuelan history! Even more than elections, grass-roots organizing in Venezuela carries democracy into every decision. Hundreds of Bolivarian Circles democratically take up issues in communities, workplaces, schools, and other organizations.
This woman was pulling for ten million votes for Chavez. He actually received a historical record number of votes. Note her purple finger, indicating that she had already voted
"El Proceso" in Venezuela has led to stunning victories against the plagues of mankind. Government sponsored missions take on every possible kind of social ill, from hunger and homelessness to disease. Health care is free, according to Mayor Freddy Bernal. Although no one claims that Venezuela has become a Garden of Eden, social statistics reveal great progress when compared to the period before 1998, when Chavez was first elected.
Venezuelans are pulling together. They work on their missions, on their Bolivarian Circles, and in politics to promote unity. Although there were 86 political parties listed on the December 3 ballot, almost all of them either supported President Chavez or his opposition. Early in 2007, the parties will hold a giant congress to try to work out differences and increase their unity. In the international arena, Venezuelans are proud of the efforts they make to promote unity with the rest of the world.
Internationalism is everywhere in Venezuela!
After a short speech by Caracas Mayor Freddy Bernal, one of the Americans asked if Venezuelans were spending too much on social benefits and too little on the country's infrastructure. Mayor Bernal thundered that the Bolivarian revolution was spending more on infrastructure than any country in Latin America. He listed 5 new subways, hospitals, schools, a new university, and other ongoing improvements. Around Caracas and on the highways, construction crews were everywhere!
Turbines waiting for installation in a new Caracas subway
Scientific observers agree that social gains come and go under capitalism. The only way to secure our progress is to leave capitalism behind. In Venezuela, socialism is openly discussed as a goal that is growing constantly nearer. An educated populace with access to honest information is sharpening its tactics to achieve a socialism particularly suited to Venezuela. If one believes, as I do, that a revolutionary party is necessary to guide the efforts of socialist activists, then the Bolivarian revolution meets the standard. The Communist Party of Venezuela tripled its vote totals, compared to the last legislative vote, on December 3. It moved into fourth place nationwide and third place in Caracas! Party members lead major movements and hold high offices because of the respect they command. The PCV is an integrated part of the nationwide discussion and a respected part of the process of the Bolivarian revolution!
-- Jim Lane
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