Venezuela: Chavez reflects on social gains

"Celebrating the completion of nine years in office, Venezuela's President Hugo Chavez presented what he considered to be some of the main economic achievements of his government" according to a February 4 Venezuelanalysis.com article.

"Among these were the lowering of inflation, of poverty, and of inequality, and the increase in school attendance and in access to drinking water, among other things."

Chavez had been elected on a platform of reversing neoliberal policies that had impoverished the country. The attempt of his government to implement pro-poor policies at the expense of corporate interests has sparked a bitter class struggle as the US-backed pro-capitalist opposition sought to overthrow Chavez and return to power.

These attempts convinced Chavez that is was impossible to solve the needs of the poor within the framework of capitalism, leading him to repeatedly call for the construction of a "socialism of the 21st Century".

Speaking on February 3 from the Miraflores presidential palace, in the presence of his entire cabinet and numerous other government officials, Chavez presented a wide variety of slides illustrating how key indicators of the country have evolved before and during his presidency.

According to a February 3 Prensa Latina article, Chavez argued that what began with his election was a process of the "dismantling of a neocolonial system ruled by a super-rich minority dependent on the United States".

"That oligarchy", Chavez argued, "took over all the powers of the nation and played the role of pawn of the US empire, following its orders."

For this reason, the Venezuelanalysis.com article reported that Chavez argued that Venezuela was a "colony" that was "disguised as a democracy".

Despite Venezuela's enormous wealth as the world's fifth largest oil supplier, in 1999 50.2% of the population lived in poverty, according to Prensa Latina.

Venezuelanalysis.com reported that extreme poverty had dropped by 54% under the Chavez government — from 20% of the population in 1998 to 9.4% in 2007. Prensa Latina reported that overall poverty was down to 33.7% of the population.

Chavez listed the wide-ranging social gains as a result of the revolutionary process his government has initiated, reporting that enrolments in primary school had risen from 40% of the school age population in 1998-99 to 60% in 2005-06, according to Venezuelanalysis.com.

Secondary and professional education had also risen, from 27.3% to 41%. Higher education enrollment had increased from 21.8% in 1998 to 30.2% in 2006. Illiteracy has also been eradicated in Venezuela.

Chavez showed statistics revealing that infant mortality had dropped from 21.4 deaths per 1000 live births in 1998, to 13.9. Chavez argued this was due to a greatly expanded program of integral health plans and vaccinations, provided for free.

The population's access to drinking water increased from 80% in 1998 to 92% of the population in 2007.

According to Venezuelanalysis.com, Chavez argued: "We should be proud of ourselves" because Venezuela is on the path to be a country of equals, "a socialist society that seeks social justice".

Don't expect the mainstream media, hellbent on demonising Chavez as a dictator-in-the-making who is ruining Venezuela's economy, to report on these gains for Venezuela's poor majority — who have repeatedly elected his government and defended it on the streets against the elite's attempts to bring down the government and destroy these gains.

[The complete slides used in Chavez's presentation can be found as PDF's at .]