To the Editor:
With the recent death of Hugo Chavez, president of Venezuela, there has been much speculation in the media as to whether the reforms he brought about in his country’s economy and society would be retained. As one who visited Venezuela two years ago and saw these changes for myself, I would be very surprised if the vast majority of the population who supported him would allow them to be reversed.
With my group, I met people in both the city of Caracas and the mountain village of Sanara, and several places in between — cooperatives, women’s groups, teachers, university students, coffee merchants, health promoters, a dance group, a crew in a people’s TV station, young people, musicians, a Catholic priest, members of the militia, etc. With the exception of the university students (who complained about raised tuition and reduced services), all were enthusiastic about improvements in their lives and society since Chavez became president and began diverting proceeds from the oil industry away from U.S. oil companies and the local wealthy elite and into improvements in health care, education, infrastructure, and community development.
Among the results from Chavez’ policies and programs which I saw:
• An increase in the literacy rate from 20 to 90 percent.
• An adult education system that took people from illiteracy to community college in 10 years, and made them teachers, paralegals, architects, nurses, paramedics, social workers, etc.
• Health centers in villages throughout the country, staffed by Cuban doctors and health promoters, provided in exchange for oil.
• A nationwide music education system that has put symphony orchestras in many towns and villages.
• An improved road system that enables farmers to deliver their crops to markets in urban centers.
• Village councils provided with federal funds and empowered to decide locally how to spend them for their own community development.
• Women achieving parity with men in local business and government.
• Government-funded daycare centers for small children that allow their mothers to work.
• People well-fed, energetic, happy, and enthusiastic about their president and their future.
The people who elected Chavez twice, put him back into power after a CIA-engineered coup tried to force him out, and consistently gave him two-to-one margins of support, will not allow the gains made under his leadership in the above-mentioned areas to be taken away from them.
Some try to discredit this program of utilizing government resources to benefit all the people by calling it “socialism.” I call it “government of the people, by the people, and for the people.”
And isn’t it curious how the media invariably refer to leaders like Chavez and Daniel Ortega of Nicaragua as “socialist presidents,” and the Castros of Cuba as “communist leaders,” but never refer to presidents Clinton, Bush, and Obama as “capitalist leaders?”