Venezuela Launches New Social Program for Poor Children

President Chávez announced the creation of a new social program, which will provide treatment and rehabilitation to children in situations of drug and alcohol addiction, abandonment, exclusion, or vulnerability. The new program will be known as the “Children of the Neighborhood” mission.
Participation and Social Protection Minister Érika Farías announced that the Negra Hipólita mission plans to open an eco-rehabiliation camp in the state of Lara in the coming year.

Mérida, June 16, 2008 (– Venezuelan President Hugo Chávez announced the creation of a new social program, known as a “mission,” which will provide treatment and rehabilitation to children in situations of drug and alcohol addiction, abandonment, exclusion, or vulnerability. The new “Children of the Neighborhood” mission will be created to focus especially on the children and orphans in such situations. Also, new facilities will be constructed for the “Negra Hipólita” mission, which has been working with adult homeless and at-risk populations for approximately two years.

“Until now it was Negra Hipolita [mission] that attended the citizens who find themselves in at-risk or vulnerable situations. Now, it occurs to me to create this Children of the Neighborhood Mission to do the same with all the abandoned children,” President Chávez declared on his Sunday talk show, Aló Presidente.

The Minister of Participation and Social Protection, Érika Farías, who currently oversees the Negra Hipólita Mission, was put in charge of preparing the plans and legal framework for the new mission.

The president urged Farías to include as part of the new mission a child adoption program and a plan for putting a halt to child labor. He said the mission should work with the state-owned media to publicize its services. “We are going to use the socialist media to carry out these projects,” Chávez said.

Farías reported that approximately 700 children and adolescents who were abandoned or living in the street have been taken in and rehabilitated by the ministry’s programs so far.

Chávez called these figures “positive,” but emphasized that there is a lot of work left to be done, and this is the purpose of the new mission. “This mission will offer more solidity, more institutional strength, and more capacity to all the social plans that the national government is implementing,” Chávez explained.

Sunday`s Aló Presidente program was broadcast from the new Okeimá Integral Rehabilitation Center created by the government in the state of Vargas as part of the recent expansion of the Negra Hipólita Mission, which is named after the household slave who nursed and raised South American independence leader Simón Bolívar.

In addition, Chávez approved 11 million bolivars (US$5.1 million) in federal funding for the construction of a new rehabilitation center in the state of Lara that will have the capacity to house and treat 200 people who are homeless, addicted to drugs or alcohol, pregnant in adolescence, poverty-stricken, or who otherwise live in at-risk situations.

The center will be constructed on lands that were acquired by the National Anti-Drug Organization and donated to the mission. The Culture Ministry has agreed to donate one building in the complex, and the money now approved by the government will be invested in expanding these facilities, Minister Farías explained.

President Chávez also allocated 47 million bolivars (US$21.9 million) for the purchase of another 5,400 square meter complex that will be converted into a 150-person drug rehabilitation center operated by the Negra Hipólita Mission.

The new facilities are meant to expand the mission beyond Caracas and the nearby states where it is principally active. To further improve access to the mission, a new national toll-free telephone line has been created which people can call to report cases in need of attention.

“We will bring these installations to the people most in need so that they live there and, as a consequence, we will offer them a better quality of life because socialism is that which offers attention to the most impoverished,” Chávez declared.

According to Minister Farías, in the Caracas metropolitan area alone 264 people who were living in the streets were brought in to the mission in May of this year, but 3,000 continue to live precariously in the streets of Caracas. Nationally, 3,800 people have been treated by the Negra Hipólita Mission so far this year, Farías explained.

Because rehabilitation involves a variety of integrated services, the mission collaborates with other missions and ministries. For instance, it has worked with the Caracas Security Plan of the Ministry of the Interior and Justice, the community sports programs and health clinics of the Barrio Adentro Mission, the Culture Mission, the Miracle Mission (which provides free eye surgery), and the José Gregorio Hernández Mission, which registers and provides medical services to Venezuelans with disabilities.

Also, the Participation and Social Protection Ministry works in conjunction with the community council system, which was created in 2006, the same year as the Negra Hipólita Mission. The Vice Minister of Participation and Social Protection, Mary Carmen Moreno, commented that “the most important thing is that the community becomes co-responsible and as citizens we cannot continue being indifferent toward this problem.”

President Chávez commented on Sunday that it is the capitalist system that has created a situation in which so many people are in such vulnerable life situations, and that socialist revolution is the path to solve the situation.

“Revolution is something that is carried in the spirit, not in the mouth,” Chávez said, adding that the true revolutionary is “always be capable of feeling deeply any injustice committed against anybody, in any part of the world.”