Under the Chavez administration, human rights have been substantially increased and expanded in order to guarantee the population not just civil and political rights, but also economic, social and cultural rights. Venezuela stands “at the vanguard” of “respect for and enforcement of human rights; be it civil, political, economic, social, or cultural rights”, affirmed Venezuelan Ambassador to the United Nations, Jorge Valero, after submitting his country’s human rights report to the UN this week. Valero told reporters that in Venezuela human rights and socialism are “two sides of the same coin”, as both seek to improve the Venezuelan people’s overall quality of life.
“HUMAN RIGHTS FOR GOOD LIVING”
The Venezuelan government submitted findings this week to the UN’s Universal Periodic Review (UPR), a process in which member-states present their own human rights assessments once every four years. Titled “Human Rights for Good Living”, Venezuela’s report highlighted a number of the human rights advances made possible by the Bolivarian Revolution under the leadership of Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez. According to Ambassador Valero, Venezuela finds itself at “the vanguard worldwide in the exercise of human rights” because the Bolivarian Republic of Venezuela is guided by the political philosophy of liberation hero Simon Bolivar (influenced by Rousseau) who taught that the “most perfect system of government is that which produces the greatest amount of happiness possible fo the greatest amount of people”. “Social investment has become our national strategy to reach a sovereign and integral development.
Each of the different social missions, which attend to the most excluded sectors of the country, allows us to advance in the context of the UN Millennium Goals”, said Valero. Venezuela: major advances in human rights Venezuela’s social missions, affirmed the diplomat, “have allowed for a massive and accelerated accessing of economic, social, and cultural rights”.
POVERTY DOWN, HEALTH, EDUCATION & NUTRITION UP
In a research project funded by the United Nations Population Fund (UNPF), the Economic Commission for Latin America and the Caribbean (ECLAC) found that poverty in Venezuela has been cut in half (from 48.6 to 27.6%) during the 2002 to 2008 period. ECLAC also found Venezuela to be the country with the least amount of income distribution inequality in 2010, placing Venezuela’s progress in the context
of a region “known as one of the most unequal in the world”.
According to Venezuelan Minister of Health Eugenia Sader, the country’s National Public Health System, with its flagship Inside the Barrio program staffed largely by Cuban doctors, has increased the number of facilities that provide free health care from 4,000 to 13,000. As a result, there were some 432 million visits to free clinics in Venezuela between 2003 and 2010, saving an estimated 300,000 lives.
A 2010 report released by the United Nations Educational, Scientific, and Cultural Organization (Unesco) found university-level enrollment in Venezuela to be 83%, two and a half times higher than the Latin American average of 34%. According to Unesco, Venezuela now ranks fifth (5th) in the world and second (2nd) in the region – after Cuba – in this important measure of cultural development.
In terms of food and nutrition, data released by Venezuela’s National Institute of Nutrition (NIN) found the daily caloric intake of the average Venezuelan between 1998 and 2009 to have risen by 27 percent. Up from 2,202 to 2,790 calories per day, Venezuela’s per capita calorie intake now sits high above the nutritional target of 2,100 figure established by the UN’s Food and Agricultural Organization (FAO). Child malnutrition in Venezuela was found to have been reduced by 58.5% during the last decade, from 7.7 to 3.2 percent in 1990 and 2010, respectively.
Venezuela now stands fifth in Latin America in terms of countries with the lowest rates of malnutrition amongst children under the age of five. “Venezuela is not only recognized as a country that has reduced its own inequalities, but also inequality throughout Latin America and the Caribbean”, said Valero.
Last week the joint Venezuela- Cuba heath care program that provides free eye surgery for people throughout Latin America, known as Mission Miracle, celebrated its seven-year anniversary. According to Manuel Pacheco, Mission Miracle’s international coordinator, some 1.3 million Latin American and Caribbean people have recovered their vision thanks to the revolutionary program. In the first six months of 2011 alone, some 100,000 people benefited from the free vision-recovery program in 72 specialized clinics across Venezuela.
With respect to political rights, Venezuela’s Ambassador to the UN highlighted the numerous electoral opportunities that have occurred since the Revolution first came to power in 1998. “In a period of 10 years we have had a total of 16 electoral processes, a figure which demonstrates just how much popular support exists for Venezuelan democracy”, affirmed Valero.
According to Venezuela’s National Electoral Council (CNE), popular participation in the country’s presidential elections increased from 54 to 74 percent in 1998 and 2006, respectively. The Venezuelan people, said Valero, “enjoy a wide range of democratic liberties; and I can assure you that very few countries in the world enjoy the same freedoms guaranteed by the Constitution of the Bolivarian Republic of Venezuela”. According to the diplomat, all sectors of Venezuelan political life “have the right to express themselves freely, and as is often the case, even when their proposals go against what is established in our Carta Magna”. According to Valero, the United Nations has never once produced “a single official document or declaration against Venezuela, and none can exist, because Venezuela characterizes itself for being scrupulously respectful of absolutely all human rights”.
In October, the UN’s Universal Periodic Review will meet to review the information provided by the Venezuelan government and provide any pertinent feedback as it relates to human rights in the country.
“One could say that Venezuelan socialism and human rights are two sides of the same coin”, affirmed Valero. “We have gone about substantially increasing our people’s quality of life. Today our people are happier, with elevated well-being indices, and with less social inequality than in the past. We have decided to take our society towards a society of equals, where the limits of justice, equality, and solidarity are both unstoppable and infinite”, he concluded.
The Venezuelan Ambassador also added that his country “has constantly denounced imperial aggressions against the peoples of the world”, insisting on a respect for international law and the human rights of those under attack as in the cases of “the genocides committed against the people of Iraq, Afghanistan, and Libya”.