Every March 5, Venezuelans remember the anniversary of the death of Hugo Chavez, the architect of the Bolivarian revolution. Before he could rise to political power, however, he led a military revolt in 1992, when then-President Carlos Perez was implementing the neoliberal policies outlined in the Washington Consensus.
'The Homeland is Eternal', Venezuelans Say, Evoking Hugo Chavez
After his release from prison in 1994, Commander Chavez began the formation of the Movement for the Fifth Republic (MVR), a leftist organization with which he won the 1998 presidential elections.
From this victory, he began to build the conditions for a process of institutional transformation carried out by his administrations from 1999 to 2013. Below are some outstanding policy outcomes achieved in this period.
“In Venezuela, sooner rather than later, there will not be a single child on the street, not a homeless person, not a single abandoned family. That must be the supreme objective of our revolution!” Chavez said in one of his massively applauded speeches.
To fight against poverty, he set social policies focused on access to food, free health and education, job creation, and the expansion of social security. As a result of the above, the extreme poverty rate decreased from 22.2 percent in 2002 to 10.7 percent in 2010.
Two years later, Venezuela ranked third among the Latin American countries with the lowest percentage of poverty, according to the United Nations Economic Commission for Latin America and the Caribbean (ECLAC).
In 2012, the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) recognized Venezuela for having reduced hunger and extreme poverty by more than 50 percent.
Bolivian Former President Evo Morales' tweet reads, "Our best tribute to brother Hugo Chavez, friend and brother of the Bolivian people, is to keep alive his Latin American liberation thought. The Great Homeland remembers with great pride his son, brother, and commander. The Empire tried to eliminate him but made him immortal."
A country free of illiteracy
From the beginning, the Bolivarian Revolution assumed as a priority the increase in education levels. To this end, its leader established three social programs: the first focused on literacy and primary education (Mision Robison), the second dedicated to secondary education (Mision Ribas), and the third designed to strengthen higher education (Mision Sucre).
During the Chavez administration, Venezuela allocated 6 percent of its Gross Domestic Product (GDP) to education. The effects of this decision were felt in a short time: in 2005, UNESCO recognized Venezuela as a “territory free of illiteracy,” after the Robinson mission had succeeded in making 1.4 million citizens, mostly senior citizens, literate.
"By declaring itself a territory free of illiteracy, Venezuela is making its most relevant contribution in our common march towards education for all. The Mission Robinson's achievements would not have been possible without political will and support at the highest level... President Hugo Chavez deserves warm congratulations," the UN agency said.
Since then, university education in this South American country is no longer a privilege for only a few people. From 1998 to 2014, the Bolivarian revolution created 42 universities, which made it possible to increase university enrollment from 700,000 young people to 2 million students. Venezuela was then ranked as the fifth country in the world and the second in Latin America with the highest university enrollment, according to UNESCO.
Among the new educational centers were the National Experimental Polytechnic University of the Bolivarian Armed Forces (UNEFA), the National Experimental University of the Arts (UNEARTE), and the National Security University (UNES).
Culture and sport as rights
The Bolivarian Revolution leader always conceived culture, arts and sports as social rights that should be enjoyed by the entire population. To achieve this goal, his administration established institutions such as the Cultural Mission, the National Center for History, the National Center for Photography, and the National Printing House for Culture.
"Culture is truly the best tool to achieve the recovery of conscience, the resurrection of peoples, the deepening of who we have been, who we are, and who we can be," President Chavez said in 2004.
His administration also created the publishing house El Perro y la Rana, the National Dance Company, the National Record Center, the National Network of Community Cinema Halls, the Network of Regional Halls of the National Cinematheque, and the Film Distributor Amazonia.
Besides establishing institutions aimed at serving Indigenous peoples and Black peoples, Chavez strongly supported the National System of Youth and Children's Orchestras and Choirs, which became a model of collective action that several countries have tried to replicate.
As a faithful lover of sports, he created the physical infrastructure for the spread of sports throughout Venezuela. In this effort, the training of paralympic athletes stood out over time. For 2014, the Venezuelan Paralympic team achieved third place in the first edition of the Para-South American Games, obtaining 34 gold, 24 silver, and 21 bronze medals.
The Chavez administration also allocated important resources for the early training of high-performance athletes for world competitions and established over 200 international sports cooperation agreements.
Commander Chavez always focused his efforts on transforming the living conditions of the most vulnerable population. In order to achieve this desire, he built a State concerned with expanding the access of Venezuelans to decent and functional housing.
This was achieved through social programs such as the new neighborhood and the Tricolor neighborhood, which were accompanied by institutions such as the Housing and Habitat Ministry and the Public Works Ministry.
“The housing drama has no solution in capitalism. Here we are going to solve it with socialism and more socialism”, Chavez said at the inauguration of the Venezuela's Great Housing Mission in 2011. Barely a year later, this social program managed to deliver 556,000 homes for low-income families.
A powerful public health system
To break with the ignominious past shaped by the conservative negligence, the Bolivian Revolution proposed to fight poverty by increasing health care coverage. The outcomes achieved by Chavez deserve to be appreciated based on this historical break.
The magnitude of the policy feat could already be appreciated in 2010, when the Smile Mission had delivered over 9,000 dental prostheses, the Miracle Mission had performed 1.2 million ophthalmological operations, and the medical centers had operated on over 1,556 children with congenital heart disease.
In 2012, the Chavez administration had managed to consolidate 533 comprehensive diagnostic centers (CDI), which serve the population free of charge and have intensive care beds and X-ray laboratories.
Venezuela also managed to set 570 comprehensive rehabilitation rooms, 31 high-tech centers, 4,781 dental centers, and a national network of hospitals for pediatric cardiology.
Access to Technology
Prior to the Bolivarian Revolution, the Venezuelan state practically did not invest anything in science and technology. The change, however, began to be evident in 2004, when Chavez decreed the mandatory use of free software and operating systems in public institutions.
Five years later, the CANAIMA project revolutionized pedagogical practices in public schools by democratizing free access to new technologies. Among other things, this goal presupposed the delivery of 875,000 computers by 2010.
In 2008, Venezuela consolidated its sovereignty by placing its first satellite in orbit, which guarantees people access to telephone and Internet even in low-density areas.
This achievement was accompanied by the laying of the ALBA-1 fiber optic submarine cable, which connects Venezuela with Cuba and Jamaica, ensuring Internet and telephone service in those countries.
Four years later, the Bolivarian Revolution launched its first remote observation satellite to facilitate geographic research, territorial planning, and disaster prevention.