On occasion of Chávez’s 65th birthday, VA columnist Jessica Dos Santos looks back on his achievements and stresses the need to defend his legacy.
President Hugo Chávez was born on July 28, 1954. However, as Gabriel García Márquez would say, “human beings are not born for good the day their mothers give birth to them, rather life forces them to be reborn time and again.”
Thus, Chávez was reborn, by natural birth or emergency C-section, every time the times and the national context demanded he reinvent himself.
That is how we got to know Chávez the politician, the philosopher, the historian, the economist, the soldier, the religious man, and you can go on counting. But, in each of these lives, culture was ever present.
The first time he spoke about “culture” was during his electoral campaign in June 1998: “Children, when they get to school, they need to receive a dignifying message that will raise their spirits and not repress them. We should prepare them with freedom, with dignity, through culture and education. Our education, our culture, is one of the areas that needs emergency action. We need to put a stop to children on the streets. We can’t have kids on the streets, kids need to be in school, fly kites, play football, and be happy.”
And that’s what I was: a 9 year-old carajita listening to him in the old living room TV set. But outside my building, in a busy neighborhood of Caracas, tons of kids slept in the streets. It was hard to believe this man would one day achieve what he promised. But he did.
Within the first months of his term, the government was able to remove kids from the streets. Not by disappearing them in the kind of “social prophylaxis” employed in the past, nor putting them in child exploitation networks, but through a profoundly integral social care.
Later, another milestone was hit. The average number of new people learning how to read and write jumped from 5 to 137 thousand a year. And finally, seven or eight years later, Unesco declared Venezuela a “territory free from illiteracy” after certifying the literacy of 1.7 million people…. https://bit.ly/32QdJit
Photo: WI BOPM, Spring 2019