Civic-Military Parade Celebrates Venezuela’s Social Programs

A parade of the social programs created in the past year, the missions, took place last Saturday, in which each mission presented participants and Chavez announced additional financial support for the programs.

Caracas, August 29, 2004—As part of Chavez’ referendum victory celebrations, the armed forces and participants in the country’s new social programs called missions marched together in a show of civic-military unity along Caracas’ parade route, Los Proceres.

Contingents of participants of the “Vuelvan Caras” program wore overalls and carried picks and shovels while others pushed wheel barrels, symbolizing labor and employment through the construction of community infrastructure projects, which is the program’s goal.

Participants of the “Vuelvan Caras” mission (employment)
Credit: Robin Nieto

Indigenous people led by indigenous member of the National Assembly, Noeli Pocaterra, marched for the “Misión Guaicaipuro,” the national program to reassert indigenous land rights as well as indigenous community development.

Guaicaipuro Mission (indigenous rights)
Credit: Robin Nieto

The army reserves also marched, as part of the Misión Miranda, showing their enthusiasm rather than their military force, since they were unarmed, some shouting “Viva Chavez!” and posing for cameras. 

Miranda Mission (army reservists)
Credit: Robin Nieto

For 51-year-old Jesus Sedeño, the march represented a culmination of a history of struggle that began decades ago.  “I feel proud of this revolution we have worked so long for. This is the product of that work,” Sedeño said.

The combination of civil society and the military represents how the missions are being administered as well as President Chavez’ vision for a Venezuelan society based on the social participation of both the armed forces and the general population.  As a former paratrooper, Chavez has in these past 6 years in office managed to integrate the military into society by having them help coordinate numerous social programs

However, it has taken Chavez years to persuade the general population that the military can be more than just a repressive force against its own people.  Livia Montes, a social worker who runs a local community TV station says that in the beginning she saw Chavez as just another military man, and she was very skeptical. “In the beginning I didn’t trust him, thinking that he was the same as the others,” she said, “but in seeing the work he started to do, we said, no, he really does want to change things,” Montes said.

“The New Venezuela is born,” Chavez said in his speech at the parade, referring to the civic-military union, to the missions, to the participation of three million Venezuelans in these missions, and to massive public participation in the country’s presidential referendum, where almost 10 million people voted in a country with a population of 25 million—the largest voter turn-out, in raw numbers, in Venezuelan history.

Chavez announced that the country has from now until December 31 to institutionalize the missions and announced $100 million in funding for this purpose, on top of the over $500 million he announced for the housing mission, which is expected to become its own ministry in the coming months.

In all, there are 12 missions that cover the bases of society, including health, education, housing, citizenship, and employment.