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World Social Forum

If one looks out on Caracas with a superficial eye the Bolivarian Process is not at all apperent, in fact it is quite invisible. Superficially Caracas carries many of the similarities of all of the cities that i have seen in developing Latin America; poverty, pollution, trash and disorganized urban sprawl development. That said, the Process--the shorthand term used by most by Venevolanos for the revolutionary Bolivarian Process--is transforming the nation, at least at the level of millions of individuals who have had the opportunity to become part of las misiones-the missions, which are basically a series of social programs ranging from education (Ribas as explained by Tim, Robinson--combatting illiteracy, and Sucre--finishing high school for free) to health care (barrio adentro-inside the neighborhood: also known as oil for cuban doctors, who operate small state funded free health clinics in poor neighborhoods) to indigenous programs to workers cooperatives to the as of yet unachieved land reform. Unless you know exactely what to look for or talk extensively to people involved, it is not apperent that another world is being constructed right before your eyes.

According to my interactions with people in the last two days, its all about el Processo here in Venezuela. Yesterday, after searching in vein for the ASF, we ended up at the new Bolivarian University. The ex-petrolero complex (it used to house petroleum industry related offices and buisnesses) is now a free university opened in 2004 that gives priority to the lowest income applicants (if they can even be called that...if they have the space you get in) for education in a variety of alternative subjects devoted toward furthering the Bolivarian revolution.

Much of what i just mentioned was learned from an impassioned women we met who talked to us for over an hour about a variety of subjects related to the Process. First on the list was her profound personal self-transformation from an uneducated consumptive capitalist oriented individualist to an anti-egoist blivarian socialist devoted to furthering her education and fully participating in the revolutionary Process. How did this transformation happen you ask? Well, she heard President Hugo Chavez Frias speak and her world was forever altered by his wisdom and passion...thats her words, more or less, not mine folks. At age 52, she then enrolled in the Bolivarian university, her only option as she was too old to attend the Central University, an older, better funded and more prestigious institution, though she wouldnt have been able to afford it even if she was the right age. She now studies radical politics, yet continues to sell cheese as she did before the chance to be educated. That is the Process at work at the level of the individual. The women also helped us understand in more detail the substance of the aforementioned missions.

My other impressions of the Process are centered around its decentralized nature and early phase nature. Chavez has been very tactical in making changes that wont send the elites of the country into a flurry of fury, although there is plenty of vehement anti-Chavez folks (in fact the opposition to the Forum and the chavista governement has supposedly taken the stance that the location of the youth camp is unsafe and therefor all campers must relocate into another park in the city!...maybe more on that later) around. What I mean to say is that instead of overtly taking over or nationalizing sectors of the economy, he is, with the participation and initiation of the people (this is the key to the Process) constructing an alternative socio-economic reality. This allows people and communities to participate in creating a system that is livable and humane, while not attacking too directly the private or opposition sectors of the country. For example, instead of taking over the relatively exclusive Central University, another entirely different university devoted to an alternative approach to education was opened. Instead of taking over privetly run hospitals, small free clinics are opened in areas where people cant afford medical care. Markedly improve millions of peoples lives, while not confronting too directly reactionary powers that would halt the Process if they could. Thats the basic idea as far as I can tell, at least for now...
The woman who we spoke to at the Bolivarian University made it quite clear that the Process is in its infancy, trying to get a solid foot hold, and, while she is directly benefiting from the Chavez government, it is her grandchildren who will be the ture beneficiaries of Bolivarianismo. The Process only needs to continue.

posted by Jade on Wednesday, January 25, 2006

Blogger IP said: The Universidad Central of Venezuela (UCV)—as well as other public universities in the country—is free (no tuition paid by students). Semester inscription’s fees are about two dollars. By paying those fees students can obtain a university ID, which allows using university libraries; access to subsidized meal services (breakfast, lunch, and dinner in weekdays, not really tasty meals certainly); dental, optometrist, gynecologist, and psychological services by free; hospitalization insurance; free university buses; half fare in all public transportation, half ticket price in selected movie theaters and sports events.

Lowest income students are given admission preference to the UCV—as well academic remediation and vocational services—through the Samuel Robinson program. All these policies existed prior to Chávez, most of them since late 1980s and early 1990s, some others since the 1960s. No age limitations for admission exist.

Low income students also receive scholarships to help them to pay for their living expenses.

Check with other sources if you want to know why the Bolivarian University was created, taking funds away from well-established institutions.

There are inequalities in access to higher education in Venezuela, but the Ministry in charge of elementary and secondary education should be the one accountable for them.