Living the Utopia

How can one justify calling the political transformation in Venezuela a "revolution"? The process is revolutionary not just because of the number and depth of positive changes, but because the changes would not have been possible without a revolution.

A series of transcendental changes that have come about in the past few years in Venezuela indicate that we are in the midst of a revolution. However, there are many who object to this formulation. Even the most radical say that “This government has not done anything.” Well, the works of the government are there, which, as the President says, whosoever has eyes may see. Even though it is not the point, it makes sense to say that the governments of other presidents have provided public works, in some more and in some less. In particular, under the dictatorship of General Marcos Perez Jimenez, public works were of such a magnitude that today they compete with those that were made during the so-called democracy of “puntofijismo.”[1] What difference is there between the previous governments and the current one? What is it that allows one to speak of a revolution in progress?

Venezuela has undergone a radical transformation, one which is only possible in a revolution. Five years ago, the political consciousness of citizens was very low. Today, the great majority of Venezuelans have a political consciousness that is much higher. In addition, the degree of political participation is much higher compared to the past. This does not have to do with whether someone is in favor of or opposed to the revolutionary process, but it has to do with the fact that Venezuelans have been shaken by the eruption of politics in our everyday lives. Many had never participated in social organizations, demonstrations, discussions, rallies, cooperatives, etc., and certainly not in defending in the streets their ideas and political beliefs. Today Venezuelans have quite an active political life.

Now, it’s not just that Venezuelans talk more about politics than before. There are a series of political changes that make up the revolution. What was left behind was representative democracy in order to construct a participatory democracy within the framework of a social state with justice. This challenge is only possible in a revolution. Questioning globalization and neo-liberalism, condemning the state terrorism perpetrated by the United States, and leading with concrete proposals for regional integration, have only been possible within a revolution. Strengthening OPEC, whereby the government spoke directly with all of its partners, despite the disapproval of the US, the condemnation of the FTAA (Free Trade Area of the Americas), the rejection of the invasions of Iraq and of Afghanistan, the efforts to construct a multi-polar world, have all come about by virtue of the revolution.

How else to explain that in less than a year the incredible goal of reducing illiteracy by more than one million, thereby practically eliminating illiteracy in Venezuela, was reached? In what country in the world has it been possible to convoke a constitutional assembly with such a high degree of participation and popular consultation as has been the case in Venezuela? How else can one make sense of the amazing feat of having dismantled a coup d’état that was internationally supported (by the U.S. and Spain, among others) and of having rescued democracy in less than 48 hours, without resorting to violence? In what other place in the world have such successful missions been designed, such as the Mission “Inside the Barrio,” which has been able provide medical attention to more than 15 million cases in less than a year?

Let’s recognize a revolution when it takes as its goal the fundamental transformation of society, not just via political changes, but also via changes in the sphere of education. In addition to the more than one million fewer illiterates, in five years of revolution it has been possible to include over one and a half million children in the school system. The education budget has been increased from 2.9% of GDP to 6.4%, 675 new schools have been constructed, 2,250 schools have been renovated, over 3,000 schools have been transformed into Bolivarian schools (where children receive meals, health care, and recreational facilities), over 35,000 new teachers have been hired, 240 infocenters (free public internet access facilities in the barrios and in other remote locations) have been opened; in sum, the achievements in the educational sphere reveal the development of a revolution.

Other indicators of the revolution are the incorporation of over three million people into access to potable water and of over one million into access to the sewage system, of having increased life expectancy by nine months and of lowering the infant mortality rate from 18 to 15 per thousand live births.

In conclusion, this is not about quantifying public works of the government, but about showing that changes so drastic, such as lowering illiteracy in six months to a larger degree than had been achieved in the forty years prior to that, are not achievable with traditional governments that our people have had until now. Paraphrasing the expression, “not being able to see the forest because of the trees,” we can say that the day-to-day struggles don’t let us see the revolution.

[1] “Puntofijismo” refers to the period between the end of the Perez Jimenez dictatorship and the beginning of the Chavez presidency (1958-1998), a forty year period in which the main parties of Acción Democratica and Copei agreed to limit political competition between their two parties.