Caracas, Venezuela, August 12, 2006—The latest advances of the Venezuelan social programs, known as “missions,” were on show this week as Misión Madres del Barrio was expanded to include 40,000 new participants, while the education mission, Misión Robinson II, celebrated 327,000 new graduates.
The Mission Madres del Barrio (Mothers of the Neighborhood) was first approved by presidential decree last March to help housewives or heads of household lift themselves out of extreme poverty and become active and productive members of their communities. To qualify, a women must either work only at home and have children, or if they do work they must earn less than the national minimum wage. Those that qualify receive between 60% – 80% of the national minimum wage which will be distributed by neighborhood committees.
President Hugo Chávez was the host at two events convoked to celebrate the accomplishments of each of the missions. At the Madres del Barrio event he announced the formation of committees that will organize the mission and at the other he awarded graduation certificates to people who had completed Mission Robinson II.
In March there were 140,000 beneficiaries of Madres del Barrio and between then and July $90 million were distributed. This latest stage brings the total up to almost 190,000 women and the expenditure to $165 million for a similar period.
Venezuelan President Hugo Chávez addressed the second cohort of Mission Madres del Barrio last Tuesday at the Teresa Carreño theater, where 40,000 Venezuelan women were incorporated into the national program. Some have criticized the program, but Chavez denied it was populism, that he was buying votes for the upcoming election. Instead, Chavez argued that it was a responsibility under the Constitution to help the most vulnerable.
Speaking of the expenditure involved, Chávez said, “This contribution doesn’t hurt, on the contrary, it makes us happy because we know that this money will be used to build the path that leads to the end of poverty.”
He also pointed to the importance of the participatory democratic element where, through neighborhood committees, the project is managed at the local level by the communities themselves, in partnership with the national government.
“The formation of popular power starts first with the creation of popular organizations and from the leadership, both those responsible for the direction of the country from the political economic, military, and social point of view to those responsible at the grass roots,” he said.
This is a cross ministerial program involving the Ministries of Health, Education & Sport, Tourism, Participation & Social Development, Popular Economy, Food, Culture, Housing, Work and Social Security.
The ceremony for graduates of Mission Robinson II was held in El Poliedro, a stadium in the south of Caracas.
Mission Robinson II has been in operation since 2003 and is the second part of the Venezuelan education system developed under the Chávez government that serves the least well off Venezuelans. It is a two year program that takes Venezuelans to primary level education. Mission Robinson I is a literacy training program, which has dramatically reduced illiteracy in Venezuela since its introduction.
Also in attendance was the Venezuelan Director General of Adult Education and Sports Omar Calzadilla who said, “These compatriots passed the first stage of their studies, there is no doubt of the considerable social impact that the Missions have in their objective of putting an end to social exclusion.”
Most of the graduates will move directly onto the next phase, Mission Ribas, which provides adult secondary education.