The History and Mission of the United Socialist Front of People with Disabilities

On Saturday 10th of April, Frente Unido Socialista de Personas con Discapacidad (FUSPD – United Socialist Front of People with Disabilities) celebrated its first birthday with a friendly basketballgame in Municipio Guacara, Carabobo State. In this interview, FUSPD President Jose Rodriguez explains the history behind FUSPD and its aims.

What are the objectives of FUSPD?

Our objective is to achieve, in accordance with our capacities, the integration of people with disabilities into family and community life. To mediate direct participation as citizens, with our rights, incorporated into the joint participation of society and family. We also focus on using community spaces that rightfully belong to us as members of Venezuelan society, participating in areas of work, politics, society, economy, health, culture and sports, with equal conditions and rights. We support people and ourselves to demonstrate our capacities.

What was the situation was like for people with disabilities before the Bolivarian Revolution?

In the past, it was approximately 80,000 bolivars for the eye operations like I’ve received. After I had a motor bike accident, I received my eye operations free with Mission Milagro (Miracle). I’ve received free operation on my legs, skull, and teeth with the Mission Sonrisa (Smile). I went to live in Maternidad, Caracas in a “Centro de atencion integral a personas con discapacidad” (Centre of integral attention for people with disabilities). For one year I received free food, free healthcare, free clothes, toiletries and I lived there for free. This helped me to get rehabilitated. The programme works with the Mission Negra Hipolita and also provides attention for people with drug and alcohol problems and those on the streets. The Centres have a 3-month minimum programme where if you want to receive treatment you agree to stay there 3 months without leaving. This is due to the connection between disabilities and drug/alcohol use.

Of course, not everyone who has a disability lives on the streets or becomes addicted to drugs but because before this government, people with disabilities were literally left out on the streets to die, the issues often go hand in hand. With these rehabilitation centres you can stay there for one year without paying a thing, this is really important because many people can’t work or their families can’t support them.

Depending on you disability or problem you are encouraged to take courses, practice sports, everyone has to get active in doing something. If after a year you want to stay more you can do but you have to contribute, they help you find work, and you contribute what you can afford. This means that people get back on their feet and get their lives back. Obviously there are people who can’t ever work or can never live independently and there are other projects and places where they can live and get the support they need.

For me, the government helped me with my house that I live in now. They provided me with a house and kitted it out with all the equipment, all of which is worth 150,000 Bolivars, now I live independently, work and run FUSPD with others.

Before, disabilities or people left incapacitated after accidents and injuries were ignored, outcast and segregated. If you had money you could get treatment but if you didn’t have money the doctors would turn their backs. With the arrival of the Cuban doctors with Barrio Adentro, people began to be attended to and be treated. Now with the 2007 “Ley de personas con discapacidad” (Law of People with Disabilities) we have rights that have to be respected, they are laws, for example each enterprise has to employ people with disabilities, at a rate no less that 5% of its workforce.

Can you tell me more about the work of FUSPD; is it National or local to Valencia?

With support from friends and comrades I set up FUSPD in 2009, first it was just in Valencia, in Municipio Guacara, that’s still where most of the work is based but it is national and anyone with disabilities in any area in the whole of Venezuela can get involved. Our work consists of finding and meeting people from the community with disabilities, getting to know them, organising sports games, like basketball. We run a computer course in The Guajira Club, share information about rights and the laws. Our work is incorporated in the table of the local communal councils. Now we’re working with the Mission Che Guevara which is currently running a pilot project, supporting people to get involved in work, job training and education opportunities. Of course we fight for equal rights within everything we get involved in too. We go out and incorporate people with disabilities into daily life with dignity and support them to stop just being social welfare projects.

You’ve achieved a lot in one year, how did you begin this kind of work?

I was so grateful for the attention and support I was given, once I’d gotten back on my feet, got some vision back, and started walking again, I wanted to do something to support the revolution, give back some of the support I’d received. But I needed to think of a good way to do it; I can’t give much money, I don’t have training as a doctor or teacher or anything. So, I decided to set up FUSPD because I realized there are lots of people like me and we need to get involved in the revolution, fight for our own space within it and also give back the support that we’ve received by giving political support to the revolution. You can’t just take all the time, you need to give back too, we need to raise consciousness-sometimes when people receive their money or wheelchairs or other equipment they need they sell them on and just think about the money that they make, this damages and robs from the revolution. I also wanted to build consciousness and show to other people that we have a place in the revolution and we can build to support it. FUSPD is getting support from the Mayor of Guacara, the Contraloria Municipal, the municipal council, PDVSA Mission Ribas and the Mission Che Guevara. This kind of support and the rights we have won can only be possible in a socialist revolution, a socialist process and so we need to defend it.

FUSPD can be contacted on 0416 243 69 14 and the group meets every Wednesday at 2pm in the Guajira Club (el Club la Guajira), Municipality Guacara, Valencia, Carabobo state.