Socialist Hugo Chávez was elected president in free elections in 1998, intent on creating a social revolution called the “Bolivarian process” with five year Socialist Plans. His goal was to create “competition socialism” in Venezuela. Chávez succeeded in cutting poverty in half while he was in power, although his government was charged with cronyism and corrupt practices and the inflation rate was high. He succeeded in building the economy by controlling the oil industry, using the revenues to cut poverty in half, increase access to free health care with the Barrio Adentro clinics program founded in 2003, and increase school enrollment. Chávez was democratically elected five times, initiated local councils, and doubled spending on education and health.[i] He led his country to be the most income equitable in Latin America by 2012.
Chávez funded thousands of communal councils and worker-run cooperatives and hundreds of communes after the failure of an attempted coup in 2002. The self-help projects to combat poverty are called missions. They provide education, health care and economic development such as teaching new skills in the production of chocolate. Military reservists help with the community projects. Tens of millions of people, the majority being female, have joined in these efforts to create a new world.[ii] The government built more than a million homes for the poor from 2011 to 2015, lending money to neighborhood assemblies who provided the labor. A young woman member of a Caracas group called Kaikashi Pioneer Camp, Sofia Melendez reported, “We solve our problems in a communal way of life.” Assemblies of neighbors make decisions and helped build a million houses for the poor using a government loan for materials. Melendez said on a video, “We have changed so many superficial beliefs, on the road to happiness. The men have found their feminine side, they cook and we make them do dishes.”
[i] Gabiel Hetland, “The Truth About Chavez,” Carib Flame, September 2, 2015
[ii] Renee Kasinsky, “’Otro Mundo Es Possble,’ Women Power of the VI Caracas World Social Forum and the Bolivarian Revolution,” Journal of international Women’s Studies, Vol. 8, No. 3, April 2007.