Venezuela's social programs

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From Green Left Weekly, August 23, 2006.
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VENEZUELA: Social programs mark milestones

Steven Mather, Caracas

The Venezuelan government’s social programs, known as “missions”, have marked new milestones. Mission Madres del Barrio (“Mothers of the Neighbourhood”) has expanded to include 40,000 new participants, and Mission Robinson II — the second phase of the government’s basic education program — has celebrated 327,000 new graduates.

Mission Madres del Barrio was first approved by presidential decree last March to help housewives or heads of households lift themselves out of extreme poverty and become active and productive members of their communities. To qualify, a woman must either work only at home and have children, or if she does work she must earn less than the national minimum wage. Those who qualify receive 60-80% of the national minimum wage, to be distributed by neighbourhood committees.

A key demand of the women’s movement in Venezuela was that the grassroots neighbourhood committees directly control the disbursement of the payment, in order to bypass Venezuela’s corrupt state bureaucracy, which often sabotages the missions. President Hugo Chavez hosted the event to celebrate the expansion of the mission, where he announced the formation of committees that will organise it.

In March there were 140,000 beneficiaries of Madres del Barrio. This latest stage brings the total up to almost 190,000 women and the expenditure on the mission to US$165 million. Chavez pointed to the importance of the participatory-democratic element: through neighbourhood committees, the project is managed at the local level by the communities themselves, in partnership with the national government. “The formation of popular power starts first with the creation of popular organisations”, he said.

The ceremony for graduates of Mission Robinson II, also hosted by Chavez, was held in El Poliedro, a stadium in the south of Caracas. Mission Robinson II has been in operation since 2003 and is part of the education system developed under the Chavez government that serves the least well-off Venezuelans. It is a two-year program that takes Venezuelans to primary-level education. Mission Robinson I is a literacy training program that has dramatically reduced illiteracy since its introduction.

Also in attendance was the Venezuelan director-general of adult education and sports Omar Calzadilla, who said: “These compatriots passed the first stage of their studies, there is no doubt of the considerable social impact that the Missions have in their objective of putting an end to social exclusion.”  Most of the graduates will move directly onto the next phase, Mission Ribas, which provides adult secondary education.

[Abridged from <>.]


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