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lunes, diciembre 26, 2005

BBC: Venezuela looks to boost social spending

BBC News last week published a short article that outlines some of the major successes and challenges of the Chavez administration's social programs, the "missions". Reporter Jane Monahan writes:

Both Anna Lucia d'Emilio, the director of the United Nations Children's Fund (Unicef) in Venezuela, and Ramon Mayorga, the representative of the Inter American Development Bank (IADB), all agree that the country's social programmes are easily the biggest and most comprehensive in Latin America.

There are about a dozen missions (a new effort, the Science Mission, has just been announced), and the BBC looks at three of the most well-known:
Mission Robinson, literacy and adult education; Mission Mercal, subsidized groceries and household goods; and Mission Barrio Adentro, placing free primary health clinics in poor urban and rural neighborhoods.

The article quotes Mayorga in saying that these three are programs which "'strike at the heart of exclusion and which are very successful and being done at a reasonable, sustainable cost'". It goes on to briefly describe each of the three missions and their success and challenges thus far.

Then it goes on to a fourth mission, Vuelvan Caras, which poses more concerns. Vuelvan Caras provides vocational education and supports participants in forming cooperatives, a way of starting their own community-based small businesses to do anything from grown coffee to drive taxis.

Monahan wonders about the "integration and . . . financial sustainability" of the jobs and cooperative enterprises created under Vuelvan Caras' auspices. "[H]ow long can the cooperatives last?" she asks.

In my view, this begins to get at the next great challenge for the Chavez government: bringing about real, long-term economic transformation. The missions which provide an ongoing service to the people are important and necessary, but they don't change the way the economy works.

We've seen that the neoliberal model has failed, but what can be put in its placed? Venezuela's success at accomplishing that transformation will be the true test of "21st century socialism".

Story from BBC NEWS: Venezuela looks to boost social spending

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