Skip to comments.Venezuela Launches Cuban-Backed Literacy Campaign
Posted on 07/02/2003 1:40:03 AM PDT by Cincinatus' Wife
CARACAS, Venezuela (Reuters) - Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez launched a Cuban-backed campaign to eradicate illiteracy in his country on Tuesday, denying opposition charges that it was aimed at teaching Cuba-style communism.
Seventy-four Cuban literacy experts were to train 100,000 Venezuelan teachers to give classes in reading and writing to 1.5 million Venezuelans -- nearly 9 percent of the population -- who are currently illiterate.
The Cuban participation is opposed by foes of leftist Chavez. They accuse him of ruling like a dictator and trying to replicate Communist-ruled Cuba in Venezuela, the world's No. 5 oil exporter.
In a video conference broadcast from Caracas to schools around the country, the Venezuelan leader praised the literacy program as a major advance in his so-called "revolution" to improve the lives of the country's poor.
"This has nothing to do with indoctrination," he said, dismissing allegations by opponents that the campaign would seek to impart Marxist ideology along with reading and writing skills.
The campaign, providing two hours of classes a day at teaching centers around the country, will be headed by Eliecer Otaiza, a Chavez loyalist and former chief of Venezuela's DISIP security police.
Chavez thanked his friend and political ally, Cuban President Fidel Castro for donating texts, videos and 50,000 television sets to help the Venezuelan literacy drive. The Venezuelan leader briefly visited Havana during the weekend for talks with Castro.
In a growing alliance that has irked the United States, the biggest buyer of Venezuelan oil, several hundred Cuban doctors, sports trainers and farming experts have been working in Venezuela under a bilateral cooperation treaty.
Venezuela also supplies up to 53,000 barrels per day (bpd) of oil to Cuba on preferential terms, making the South American nation the Caribbean island's single biggest trading partner.
Chavez, who was first elected in 1998 and survived a coup last year, frequently praises Castro and Cuba but denies that he shares the Cuban leader's Communist convictions.
February 27, 2001 Chávez's school plans ignite furor in Venezuela *** CARACAS -- With lawsuits and posters saying ``Our Children are not Cubans,'' Venezuelan parents are battling President Hugo Chávez's latest effort to turn the country's schools into indoctrination centers for his leftist ideology.
``We don't want a Communist or Chavista education,'' said Sonya Agudo, mother of two grammar school students and activist in one of the dozens of parents' groups formed recently to fight the president's plans.
Chávez has kept Venezuela in a state of high turmoil since his election 25 months ago by pushing for his ``Bolivarian revolution'' -- profound yet peaceful changes across virtually every sector of the oil-rich nation.
But the former army officer who led a failed coup in 1992 has touched an especially raw nerve by insisting that the reforms in the education sector should be aimed at ensuring the ``irreversibility'' of his revolution.
Parents and teachers' unions complain that Chávez is not merely fixing problems, but rather trying to establish a Cuba-like system of political indoctrination for young minds. Among the controversial actions:
A new constitution written by Chávez supporters requires all schools to teach ``Bolivarian principles'' ---- a code phrase for Chávez's brand of leftist populism ---- and the pro-Chávez majority in the legislative National Assembly is preparing a bill laying out the exact curriculum.
Last month, the president issued Decree 1011, creating a corps of ``itinerant inspectors'' empowered to close schools and fire teachers that don't follow government-set procedures and standards.
``Political commissars,'' Agudo called them. Jaime Manzo, head of the national teachers' union, called it ``a sword hanging over the head of any teacher who refuses to sing Chávez's praises in the classroom.''
Parents' groups and the teachers' union have appealed to the Supreme Court to block the decree and submitted to the assembly an alternate education reform plan that guarantees a ``pluralist education'' and bans ``partisan politics'' from the classroom.
New history texts for fourth- and sixth-graders published in 1999 praised Chávez's coup attempt and branded as ``corrupt oligarchies'' the two parties that ruled Venezuela since the late 1950s, Democratic Action and COPEI.
Chávez has also greatly expanded a system of paramilitary classes in public high schools that had long been on the books but were seldom held, portraying them as ``the founding stones of the new Venezuelan man.''
``He is promoting militarism, infecting texts with viruses that foster class hatreds ... and speak against globalization and privatization,'' Raffalli said in an interview.
Chávez recently signed a deal with Cuba under which Havana will train Venezuelan teachers and provide educational materials, and Education Minister Hector Navarro last year approved a nationwide essay competition on the life of Argentine-born Cuban revolutionary Ernesto ``Ché'' Guevara. ***
July 12, 2002 - More Cuban Trainers in Venezuela (Chavez and Cuba have taken control of Venezulan schools) ***CARACAS, Venezuela (AP) - President Hugo Chavez welcomed 270 Cuban sports experts who will train Venezuelan athletes as part of an oil-for-barter pact.
Some 600 Cuban trainers, physical therapists, sports psychologists and doctors are in Venezuela, a baseball powerhouse that struggles in sports like soccer, boxing and track and field.
Thirty Cuban doctors also arrived in Caracas Wednesday to serve the needy in rural Venezuelan provinces.
It's part of a deal in which Venezuela sells Cuba oil at preferential rates in exchange for Cuban expertise in tourism, sugar, medicines and other areas. Venezuela provides Cuba 53,000 barrels of oil a day - by some estimates worth $500 million a year. ***
And as we speak, millions of oil dollars flow daily into Chavez' off shore numbered bank accounts. He will be one of the richest men in the world before this amazing scam is over.
As part of that process, Mr. Espinoza said, the government has begun building community cultural centers in rural and provincial areas, each with a price tag "less than the cost of an apartment here in Caracas." The government cultural budget is also being increased by more than $100 million, making spending on culture more than double that under the previous government.
But "redefining culture," as Mr. Espinoza calls it, also involves shifting the focus from the fine arts toward artisanry and other forms of expression with a practical political purpose. "It is necessary for the state to stimulate the creative powers of the people so as to encourage their participation in the process of social mobilization and integration," he said.
Mr. Chávez, 46, is a former Army colonel who in 1992 led an unsuccessful coup attempt here. Little is known about his own tastes in the arts, other than his habit of singing folk songs or quoting the poetry of Walt Whitman during his long speeches, but his views on the relationship between politics and culture could not be clearer.
"Culture needs to be at the service of development, not at the service of elites which have led a distorted cultural process," he said in a recent speech. Speaking of his government and its policies, he added that he aspired to "a culture that is at the service of the human revolution, of creation, of the liberation of the Venezuelan people."
The purge that Mr. Chávez ordered has affected all 36 government cultural institutions here, from museums and orchestras to theater groups and the state publishing house, Mr. Espinoza said. But the ouster of Ms. Imber as the head of a museum that added her name to its title a decade ago as an homage to her efforts is seen by Mr. Chávez's critics as emblematic of the increasingly sectarian nature of the revolutionary process.***
February 2002 - Chavez security chief alleges FARC links***The former DISIP official called on the Armed Forces to issue a statement about their view of the Chávez government's alleged support for the Colombian guerrillas.
Egui Bastidas also made a number of revelations about DISIP activities in recent months. He said the Venezuelan security service had collected personal information about all serving military officers and had also tried to smear opposition figures, such as Alberto Pena, the mayor of Metropolitan Caracas. The official said he was also concerned at the growing role of Russian and Cuban security advisers in Venezuela.
Egui Bastidas said he had experienced "the direct participation and the attempts at indoctrination by the Russian and Cuban intelligence services, who have direct and virtually unlimited access within the Helicoide (DISIP's headquarters building)."
I didn't realize that prostitution, malnutrition, 1956 rusted Chevies with old Soviet Lada engines, feces-encrusted prison cells for librarians, and total human degradation were prime exportable commodities!