Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez uplifted the lives of millions and defied the neoliberal agenda. Salim Lamrani lays bare the truths behind a man often demonised by the major economic powers.
President Hugo Chavez, who died on 5 March 2013 of cancer at age 58, marked forever the history of Venezuela and Latin America.
1. Never in the history of Latin America, has a political leader had such incontestable democratic legitimacy. Since coming to power in 1999, there were 16 elections in Venezuela. Hugo Chavez won 15, the last on 7 October 2012. He defeated his rivals with a margin of 10-20 percentage points.
2. All international bodies, from the European Union to the Organisation of American States, to the Union of South American Nations and the Carter Centre, were unanimous in recognising the transparency of the vote counts.
3. James Carter, former US President, declared that Venezuela’s electoral system was “the best in the world”.
4. Universal access to education introduced in 1998 had exceptional results. About 1.5m Venezuelans learned to read and write thanks to the literacy campaign called Mission Robinson I.
5. In December 2005, Unesco said that Venezuela had eradicated illiteracy.
6. The number of children attending school increased from 6m in 1998 to 13m in 2011 and the enrolment rate is now 93.2 per cent.
7. Mission Robinson II was launched to bring the entire population up to secondary level. Thus, the rate of secondary school enrolment rose from 53.6 per cent in 2000 to 73.3 per cent in 2011.
8. Missions Ribas and Sucre allowed tens of thousands of young adults to undertake university studies. Thus, the number of tertiary students increased from 895,000 in 2000 to 2.3m in 2011, assisted by the creation of new universities.
9. With regard to health, they created the National Public System to ensure free access to health care for all Venezuelans. Between 2005 and 2012, 7873 new medical centres were created in Venezuela.
10. The number of doctors increased from 20 per 100,000 population in 1999 to 80 per 100,000 in 2010, or an increase of 400 per cent.
11. Mission Barrio Adentro I provided 534m medical consultations. About 17m people were attended to, while in 1998 less than 3m people had regular access to health. 1.7m lives were saved between 2003 and 2011.
12. The infant mortality rate fell from 19.1 per thousand in 1999 to 10 per thousand in 2012, a reduction of 49 per cent.
13. Average life expectancy increased from 72.2 years in 1999 to 74.3 years in 2011.
14. Thanks to Operation Miracle, launched in 2004, 1.5m Venezuelans who were victims of cataracts or other eye diseases, regained their sight.
15. From 1999 to 2011, the poverty rate decreased from 42.8 per cent to 26.5 per cent and
the rate of extreme poverty fell from 16.6 per cent in 1999 to 7 per cent in 2011.
16. In the rankings of the Human Development Index (HDI) of the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP), Venezuela jumped from 83 in 2000 (0.656) to position 73 in 2011 (0.735), and entered into the category of nations with `High HDI’.
17. The Gini coefficient, which allows calculation of inequality in a country, fell from 0.46 in 1999 to 0.39 in 2011.
18. According to the UNDP, Venezuela holds the lowest recorded Gini coefficient in Latin America, that is, Venezuela is the country in the region with the least inequality.
19. Child malnutrition was reduced by 40 per cent since 1999.
20. In 1999, 82 per cent of the population had access to safe drinking water. Now it is 95 per cent.
21. Under President Chavez social expenditure increased by 60.6 per cent.
22. Before 1999, only 387,000 elderly people received a pension. Now the figure is 2.1m.
23. Since 1999, 700,000 homes have been built in Venezuela.
24. Since 1999, the government provided/returned more than one million hectares of land to Aboriginal people.
25. Land reform enabled tens of thousands of farmers to own their land. In total, Venezuela distributed more than 3m hectares.
26. In 1999, Venezuela was producing 51 per cent of food consumed. In 2012, production was 71 per cent, while food consumption increased by 81 per cent since 1999. If consumption of 2012 was similar to that of 1999, Venezuela produced 140 per cent of the food it consumed.
27. Since 1999, the average calories consumed by Venezuelans increased by 50 per cent, thanks to the Food Mission that created a chain of 22,000 food stores (MERCAL, Houses Food, Red PDVAL), where products are subsidised up to 30 per cent. Meat consumption increased by 75 per cent since 1999.
28. Five million children now receive free meals through the School Feeding Programme. The figure was 250,000 in 1999.
29. The malnutrition rate fell from 21 per cent in 1998 to less than 3 per cent in 2012.
30. According to the FAO, Venezuela is the most advanced country in Latin America and the Caribbean in the eradication of hunger.
31. The nationalisation of the oil company PDVSA in 2003 allowed Venezuela to regain its energy sovereignty.
32. The nationalisation of the electrical and telecommunications sectors (CANTV and Electricidad de Caracas) allowed the end of private monopolies and guaranteed universal access to these services.
33. Since 1999, more than 50,000 cooperatives have been created in all sectors of the economy.
34. The unemployment rate fell from 15.2 per cent in 1998 to 6.4 per cent in 2012, with the
creation of more than 4m jobs.
35. The minimum wage increased from 100 bolivars ($16) in 1998 to 247.52 bolivars ($330) in 2012, ie an increase of over 2,000 per cent. This is the highest minimum wage in Latin America.
36. In 1999, 65 per cent of the workforce earned the minimum wage. In 2012, only 21.1 per cent of workers have only this level of pay.
37. Adults at a certain age who have never worked still get an income equivalent to 60 per cent of the minimum wage.
38. Women without income and disabled people receive a pension equivalent to 80 per cent of the minimum wage.
39. Working hours were reduced to six hours a day and 36 hours per week, without loss of pay.
40. Public debt fell from 45 per cent of GDP in 1998 to 20 per cent in 2011. Venezuela withdrew from the International Monetary Fund and World Bank, after early repayment of all its debts.
41. In 2012, the growth rate was 5.5 per cent in Venezuela, one of the highest in the world.
42. GDP per capita rose from $4,100 in 1999 to $10,810 in 2011.
43. According to the annual World Happiness 2012, Venezuela is the second happiest country in Latin America, behind Costa Rica, and 19th worldwide, ahead of Germany and Spain.
44. Venezuela offers more direct support to the American continent than the United States. In 2007, Chavez spent more than 8,800m dollars in grants, loans and energy aid as against 3,000m from the Bush administration.
45. For the first time in its history, Venezuela has its own satellites (Bolivar and Miranda) and is now sovereign in the field of space technology. The entire country has internet and telecommunications coverage.
46. The creation of Petrocaribe in 2005 allows 18 countries in Latin America and the Caribbean, or 90m people, secure energy supply, by oil subsidies of between 40 per cent and 60 per cent.
47. Venezuela also provides assistance to disadvantaged communities in the United States by providing fuel at subsidised rates.
48. The creation of the Bolivarian Alliance for the Peoples of Our America (ALBA) in 2004 between Cuba and Venezuela laid the foundations of an inclusive alliance based on cooperation and reciprocity. It now comprises eight member countries which place the human being at the centre of the social project, with the aim of combating poverty and social exclusion.
49. Hugo Chavez was at the heart of the creation in 2011 of the Community of Latin American and Caribbean States (CELAC) which brings together for the first time the 33 nations of the region, emancipated from the tutelage of the United States and Canada.
50. Hugo Chavez played a key role in the peace process in Colombia. According to President Juan Manuel Santos, “if we go into a solid peace project, with clear and concrete progress, progress achieved ever before with the FARC, is also due to the dedication and commitment of Chavez and
the government of Venezuela.”
Translation by Tim Anderson
Source: Global Research, 11 March 2013, http://www.globalresearch.ca/