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Social progress deepens in Venezuela

maduroFormer trade union leader, Nicolas Maduro, marks six months as Venezuela’s President in October, a period marked by measures to consolidate and deepen the remarkable social progress that took place in Venezuela under President Hugo Chávez.

Since becoming President, Maduro has faced the formidable task of both leading the government and facing an emboldened, anti-democratic right wing seeking to undermine, and ultimately overthrow, the country’s progressive government.

Since Maduro’s narrow election victory in April, Venezuela’s right-wing opposition have carried out a protracted campaign to discredit the legitimacy of Maduro’s presidency, both domestically and internationally. In this they continue to be emboldened by the hostile stance of the US administration to Venezuela, which is now the only major international power not to recognise Maduro’s win. Over the summer, Samantha Power – the Obama administration’s nominee to the UN – characterised Venezuela as a “repressive regime” which she vowed to stand up to.

Thankfully, this campaign to destabilise Maduro’s government has suffered setbacks both domestically and internationally. One element of this has been the launching of a new of new popular and progressive initiatives.

One such initiative is the ‘Street Government’ programme, aimed at promoting grassroots, community organisation and political participation at a community level to tackle everyday problems .Pursuing this, Maduro and his cabinet travelled to every state to meet with both grassroots organisations and regional officials.

The programme has approved numerous projects ranging from environmental issues to new infrastructure to tackling crime, allocating more than 63 billion bolivars ($10 billion). Additionally, over the summer President Maduro revealed a far-ranging new initiative to consolidate and expand the dozens of social programmes (known in Venezuela as missions.)

This new ‘National System of Missions’ seeks to improve the efficiency of the social welfare policies introduced in recent years. It also aims to find ways, including creating a new set of statistical indicators, to measure more accurately the gains made in education, health care and food security.

President Maduro has promised to continue funding these social missions with the same vigour that marked Chávez’s presidency. This saw budgets for key areas such as health, education and poverty reduction programmes protected even during the global recession.

Maduro has observed that Venezuela has “the resources to invest in all areas. We know what we want to achieve, how we’re going to achieve it, and where we’re going.” He pledged completely eliminate poverty in the country by 2019. Venezuela has already cut overall poverty  in half and extreme poverty  from 17% to 6.9% since 1998, receiving special recognition by the UN for its achievement.

These initiatives seem to be gaining Maduro support domestically. A survey conducted by pollster Hinterlaces reported that 62% favour the “Street Government” initiative and 57% view the administration positively.

A further poll by International Consulting Services registered 65% believing that President Maduro’s performance has improved from good to excellent during his first 100 days.

This progress is most welcome but nonetheless the right-wing opposition – with continuing US support – is clearly continuing its campaign to destabilise the country’s elected government.

In recent weeks – as Venezuela marked the 40th anniversary of the coup against Allende in Chile – enquiries have found elements of the right-wing opposition guilty of an oil refinery fire prior to the 2012 presidential election and right-wing sabotage behind some recent power black outs. We know from the coup in 2002 and oil lock out of 2003 that the Venezuelan right-wing is more than capable of such ‘dirty tricks’. President Maduro himself  warned of the right’s aim to create a month of ‘total collapse’ through destabilisation in the run-up to regional elections in December.

Our international solidarity remains as vital as ever – the Venezuelan revolution needs our support!

The Venezuela Solidarity Campaign is amongst the organisers of the annual Latin America Conference at Congress House on Saturday December 7. Speakers include Jeremy Corbyn MP, Victoria Britain and Chris Williamson MP.

One Comment

  1. Jon Williams says:

    It would be interesting to have more details of the Street Government programme mentioned “promoting grassroots, community organisation and political participation at a community level to tackle everyday problems”, and perhaps some of these ideas could be used by the current Labour Party…?

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