Chavez Inaugurates Venezuela’s First Major Employment Program

The ambitious program, “Mision Vuelvan Cara,” is designed to provide technical training to 1.2 million people in the course of 2004, with the goal of reducing unemployment to 5% by 2005

Caracas, March 14 (—With a degree of control over the state oil company PDVSA not seen since its nationalization in 1975, the Bolivarian Revolution finally has funding for a historical step in its development mandate.  Announced on Friday, March 12, Misión “Vuelvan Cara” (“Turn your Heads Back”) aims to create 1.2 million jobs within the year.  ‘Misioneros’ will receive scholarships of 185 thousand Bolivars per month (about US$90) while they receive technical training.

The program’s name comes from a battle call by one of Venezuela’s independence heroes General Jose Antonio Paez, during a battle with Spaniards that his outnumbered battalion was about to lose. When the Spanish battalion thought they defeated retreating Venezuelans, Paez shouted “turn your heads back”, and his soldiers returned to fight finally winning the battle.

According to President Hugo Chavez Frias, “once (participants) begin to produce, the scholarships will be stopped because they will already have their own income.”

“This project,” continued Chavez, “forms part of a distinct vision more progressive than the capitalist model.  Today (Friday) we take a step forward in the economic and social revolution.”

Priority for participation in the Misión will be given to graduates of Venezuela’s educational development projects such as Misións Robinson I and II, Sucre, and Ribas—free literacy and adult education projects begun in 2003.

Since the inauguration of “Plan Bolivar 2000,” military reservists and active duty troops have been enlisted in development projects throughout the country.  As military Analyst Richard Millet noted at the time, the military were one of the few resources available: “they’re already on the payroll, they’re already in the places they need to be, and they’ve got discipline.  They may not be the first choice, but there is no second choice.”  With the announcement of Misión Vuelvan Caras, Venezuela’s un-, and under-employed have become the first choice.

It is an important development in the Bolivarian project, allowing it to significantly increase the involvement of civilians in the Bolivarian revolution, while aiming at cutting unemployment down to 5% by 2005.  According to Luis Hernández, coordinator of the Asociación de Vecinos de Puerto Fermín (Puerto Fermín Neighbourhood Association), “Misión Vuelvan Cara is the continuation of initiatives of this Government dedicated to building the capacities of the people that have traditionally been exluded, where we all participate and decide what we want for our communities.”

In this first phase of Misión Vuelvan Cara priority will be given to the Agricultural sector in order to address shortages throughout the country, primarily in meat products.  The shortage has recently forced the government to import quantities of beef from Brazil and Argentina.  In his weekly address to the country ‘Aló Presidente’, Chavez declared that by importing meat “we will destroy the backbone of speculators who are taking advantage of the (meat shortage) in the country for political motives.”

Agriculture will account for 50 percent of the Misión, with Industry accounting for 30%,