Bolivarian Missions

Bolivarian Missions

The Bolivarian Missions are a series of social justice, social welfare, anti-poverty, educational, electoral and military recruiting programs implemented under the administration of the current Venezuelan president Hugo Chávez. They draw their name from the historical South American hero, Simón Bolívar.

Bolivarian Missions

The "Bolivarian Missions" have entailed the launching of massive government anti-poverty initiatives, [Niemeyer, p. 36. "The World Bank asserted on 7th October 2003 that Latin America's biggest issue is the fight against poverty. The Bolivarian Revolution seems to be the only process worldwide which is taking this problem seriously and is effectively tackling poverty with government programs. The financing of these programs by spending a good portion of the Nation's GDP (0.2% in August 2003 alone) ... "] [UNICEF. (UNICEF, 2005). [ "Venezuela’s Barrio Adentro: A Model of Universal Primary Health Care"] . Retrieved 15 Oct 2005. UNICEF, p. 2. "Barrio Adentro" ... is part and parcel of the government's longterm poverty-reduction and social inclusion strategy to achieve and surpass the Millennium Development Goals."] the construction of thousands of free medical clinics for the poor,Verify credibility|date=March 2008 [Kuiper, Jeroen. ("Venezuela Analysis", 28 Jul 2005). [ Barrio Adentro II: Victim of its Own Success] . Retrieved 18 October 2005. "After spreading primary health care through the "Mision Barrio Adentro" all over Venezuela in just two years, by constructing thousands of "consultorios" (doctor's offices) ... "] the institution of educational campaigns that have reportedly made more than one million adult Venezuelans literate, [Niemeyer, pp. 14-15. "With high levels of illiteracy to be found amongst the population the alphabetisation campaign called 'Mission Robinson' was brought into action. It has already taught more than a million people how to read and write and gained widespread support. Older people participate while youngsters enjoy access to University through a program guaranteeing equal access to Universities. This program is referred to as 'Mission Sucre'."] [Burbach, Roger. ("CounterPunch", 7 Nov 2005). [ "Bush Versus Chavez"] . Retrieved 08 Nov 2005.] and the enactment of food [Niemeyer, p. 15. "Probably the most important achievement can be seen in the state run supermarkets, referred to as 'Mercal' which provide the basic necessities at affordable prices which are in many cases more than 30 percent cheaper than in regular shops."Verify credibility|date=March 2008] and housing subsidies. ["Venezuela Analysis", [ "Chavez Disappointed with His Government’s Public Housing Achievements"] . " ... government is investing $2.8 billion in the housing program ... According to a report that Julio Montes, the Minister of Housing and Habitat, presented, only 43,000 homes had been constructed so far this year, while the government’s goal is to construct at least 120,000."] There have been marked improvements in the infant mortality rate between 1998 and 2005. [Central Intelligence Agency. (CIA, 1998). " [ The World Factbook 1998: Venezuela] ". Retrieved 18 Oct 2005.] Central Intelligence Agency. (CIA, 2005). " [ The World Factbook 2005: Venezuela] ". Retrieved 18 Oct 2005.]

The Missions have overseen widespread experimentation in what Chávez supporters term citizen- and worker-managed governance, [Albert, Michael (" Z Communications", 06 Nov 2005). [ "Venezuela's Path"] . Retrieved 12 Nov 2005.] [Ellsworth, Brian. ("New York Times", 3 Aug 2005). [ "Venezuela tries the worker-managed route"] . Retrieved 12 Nov 2005.] as well as the granting of thousands of free land titles, reportedly to formerly landless poor and indigenous communities.Verify credibility|date=March 2008 [Wilpert, Gregory. ("Venezuela Analysis", 12 Sep 2005). [ Venezuela’s Quiet Housing Revolution: Urban Land Reform] . Retrieved 18 Oct 2005. " ... the celebration of the handing out of over 10,000 land titles to families living in Venezuela's poorest urban neighborhoods ... As of mid 2005, the National Technical Office has issued over 84,000 titles to 126,000 families, benefiting about 630,000 barrio inhabitants."] In contrast, several large landed estates and factories have been, or are in the process of being, expropriated.


* Mission Robinson (launched July 2003)ndash uses volunteers to teach reading, writing, and arithmetic to Venezuelan adults.
* Mission Ribas (launched November 2003)ndash provides remedial high school level classes to Venezeulan high school dropouts; named after independence hero José Felix Ribas. In 2004, about 600,000 students were enrolled in this night school programme, and paid a small stipend. The were taught grammar, geography and a second language.
* Mission Sucre (launched in late 2003)ndash provides free and ongoing basic education courses to adult Venezuelans who had not completed their elementary-level education.


*Mission Florentino (launched June 2004)ndash organized by Hugo Chávez to coordinate the population to vote "No" in the Venezuelan recall referendum of 2004. The organizational centers of the Mission were named "Comando Maisanta" and were the ideological central headquarters for those who wished to keep Chávez as the President of Venezuela for the remainder of his presidential period.


*Mission Energía (launched November 2006)ndash has begun a campaign to reduce environmental degradation by replacing incandescent lightbulbs with more energy-efficient fluorescent bulbs.

Food and nutrition

* Mission Mercalndash seeks to provide access to high-quality produce, grains, dairy, and meat at discounted prices. Seeks to provide Venezuela's poor increased access to nutritious, safe, and organic locally- and nationally-grown foodstuffs. Seeks also to increase Venezuela's food sovereignty. Its concrete results, however, are highly debatable, as in 2007 the country is heavily more dependent on imported foodstuffs than it was in 1997, and has been facing chronic shortages in several basic supplies: milk, edible oils, sugar, cereals, eggs, and others.


* Mission Barrio Adentro ("Mission Inside the Neighborhood")ndash a series of initiatives (deployed in three distinct stages) to provide comprehensive and community health care (at both the primary ("Consultorios y Clínicas Populares" or popular clinics) and secondary (hospital) levels), in addition to preventative medical counsel to Venezuela's medically under-served and impoverished "barrios".


* Mission Hábitatndash has as its goal the construction of new housing units for the poor. The program also seeks to develop agreeable and integrated housing zones that make available a full range of social servicesndash from education to healthcarendash which likens its vision to that of new urbanism. Critics have denounced the slow rate of construction (less than 10,000 housing units built over the last six years).Fact|date=February 2007


* Mission Identidadndash provides Venezuelan national identity cards to facilitate access to the social services provided by other Missions.

Indigenous rights

* Mission Guaicaipuro (launched October 2003)ndash carried out by the Venezuelan Ministry of Environment and Natural Resources, this program seeks to restore communal land titles and human rights to Venezuela's numerous indigenous communities, in addition to defending their rights against resource and financial speculation by the dominant culture.

Land reform

* Mission Zamorandash provides a comprehensive land expropriation and redistribution program that mainly benefits poor Venezuelans. Several large landed estates and factories have been, or are in the process of, being expropriated.

Rural development

* Mission Vuelta al Campo ("Return to the Countryside"; announced mid– 2005)ndash seeks to encourage impoverished and unemployed urban Venezuelans to willingly return to the countryside.

* Mission Árbol (Mission Tree, announced June 2006)ndash seeks to recover Venezuelan forests, with plans to plant 100,000 trees in 5 years. The project is also to involve the rural population, in an effort to stop harm to forests through from slash/burn practices by promoting more sustainable agriculture, such as growing coffee or cocoa. The projects aim to achieve this through self organization of the local populations. [ [ “We Want to Change Human Interaction with Nature”.] Accessed 18 August 2006.]


* Mission Ciencia ("Mission Science" launched February 2006)ndash includes a project to train 400,000 people in open source software, [ [ Venezuela Training 400,000 in Open Source.] Accessed 18 August 2006.] and scholarships for graduate studies and the creation of laboratories in different universities. [ [ Mission Science Grants 5,000 Scholarships.] Accessed 18 August 2006.]

Socioeconomic transformation

* Mission Vuelvan Caras ("Mission Turn Faces")ndash has as its objective the transformation of the present Venezuelan economy to one that is oriented towards social, rather than fiscal and remunerative, goals. It seeks to facilitate increased involvement of ordinary citizens in programs of endogenous and sustainable social development, emphasizing in particular the involvement of traditionally marginalized or excluded Venezuelan social and economic sectors, including those participating in Venezuela's significant "informal" economy. The mission's ultimate goal, according to Hugo Chávez, is to foster an economy that brings "a quality and dignified life for all". In January 2006, Chávez declared that, after fulfilling the first stage of the mission, the goal of the second stage will be to turn every "endogenous nuclei of development" into "military nuclei of resistance against American imperialism" [ [ Chávez anunció núcleos endógenos militares para la resistencia.] "El Universal" (18 January 2006) es_icon] as part of a continuous program to create "citizen militias".Ceaser, M. ("BBC", 1 Jul 2005). [ "Chavez's 'citizen militias' on the march".] Retrieved 27 June 2006.]

Civilian militia

* Mission Mirandandash establishes a Venezuelan military reserve composed of civilians who could participate in the defense of the Venezuelan territory.

Cuban expertise

Many of these programs involve importing expertise from abroad; Venezuela is providing Cuba with 53,000 barrels (8,000 m³) of below-market-rate oil a day in exchange for the service of thousands of physicians, teachers, sports trainers, and other skilled professionals. [Bruce, Iain. [ Venezuela shuns IMF advice on oil money.] "BBC News" (24 November 2004).]


The literacy programs that comprise Mission Sucre are centered on fostering universal literacy among Venezuela's adult populace; an adjunct to this is the facilitation of their comprehension of the Venezuelan Constitution of 1999 and the inherent rights that they, as Venezuelan citizens, are guaranteed under this document. [ [ Constitución de la República Bolivariana de Venezuela] ndash Official text.]

Mission Barrio Adentro, one of the flagship Bolivarian Missions of widest social impact, has drawn international praise from the Latin American branch of the World Health OrganizationWHO: [ República Bolivariana de Venezuela: Cumpliendo las Metas del Milenio] ndash A report on Venezuela's objectives and progress regarding the UN Millennium Development Goals.] and UNICEF. [UNICEF: [ Venezuela’s Barrio Adentro: A Model of Universal Primary Health Care] ]

Oil profits, being about US$25 billion in 2004, have allowed the Chávez administration to carry out what he calls a "new socialist revolution." The leftist platform involves a remarkable increase in spending on social programs. The Chávez administration has thus built free health care clinics, subsidized food and created small manufacturing cooperatives.Between them, these programs have constructed and modernized thousands of public medical and dental clinics, launched massive literacy and education initiatives, subsidized food, gasoline, and other consumer goods, and established numerous worker-managed manufacturing and industrial cooperatives. Critics allege that these programs are corrupt and inefficient, while a number of international organizationsndash including the UN,Fact|date=February 2007 UNICEF,Fact|date=February 2007 and the WHOndash have praised the programs as positive models for bringing about social development.

Unemployment figures


Monthly unemployment figures measured throughout Hugo Chávez's tenure, between February 1999 and September 2005. Particularly notable is the spike following the opposition strike/lockout between December 2002 and February 2003. Data from the [ INE]
Or|date=March 2008]


Economic policy, unemployment and poverty

Chávez was first elected on an anti-corruption platform and on promises of redistributing wealth to the poor, but Michael Shifter of Georgetown University's School of Foreign Service says that "despite record oil profits that are funding social spending, his initiatives have yielded only very modest gains",Shifter, Michael. [ "In Search of Hugo Chávez"] . "Foreign Affairs", May/June 2006. 85:3 "But Chávez's policy ideas are mostly dubious. (Despite the record old profits that are funding social spending, his initiatives have yielded only very modest gains.) His autocratic and megalomaniacal tendencies have undermined governance and the democratic process in Venezuela." "Available data of these measures' effect are mixed and not altogether reliable ... The government has also just changed its methodology for measuring poverty to reflect improvements in nonincome criteria such as access to health servies and education, which, it argued, were not reflected in past figures."] and "The Economist" reports that his policies are most vulnerable in the areas of corruption, jobs and crime.The Economist, (April 20, 2006), [ "Venezuela: Crimes and misdemeanours".] "The Economist". Accessed 26 June 2006.]

During Chávez's presidency from 1999 to 2004, per-capita GDP dropped 1–2%,Economist (June 2003). [ "Country Briefings: Venezuela Factsheet".] "The Economist". Accessed June 4, 2003.] but with the help of rising oil prices, the end of the oil strike, and strong consumption growth, recent economic activity under Chávez has been robust. GDP growth rates were 18% in 2004,The Economist (Feb 16, 2006), [ Venezuela: Mission Impossible,] "The Economist", Retrieved 22 June 2006.] 9% in 2005, [ Imported goods are cheaper, BCV acknowledges.] "El Universal" (August 9, 2006).] and 9.6% in the first half of 2006, with the private sector growing at a 10.3% clip."Banco Central de Venezuela" ("BCV" 15 Aug 2006). [ Actividad económica crece en 9,6% durante el primer semestre de 2006] Retrieved 16 Aug 2006 es icon "Este resultado, unido al aumento de 9,9% observado en el primer trimestre, ubica el crecimiento del primer semestre en 9,6%." "Desde el punto de vista institucional, el sector público creció en 4,6% y el privado en 10,3%." ""La inversión bruta fija continuó su ritmo expansivo, alcanzando niveles superiores a los observados en toda la serie desde el año 1997."] From 2004 to the first half of 2006, non-petroleum sectors of the economy showed growth rates greater than 10%. ["El Universal (2006) [ del producto interno bruto] . Retrieved 25 Jun 2006] Most of that growth was in the poorest sectors of society, with real income growth of 55% reported between 2003 and 2005. ["Datos", (2006). [ Perspectivas del Mercado y del Consumidor Perspectivas Venamcham 2006,] p.8. Retrieved 21 Jun 2006. es_icon] Some economists argue that this subsidized growth could stop if oil prices decline,Bronstein, H. (June 14, 2006), [ "Colombians in Venezuela thank Chavez for new life",] "Washington Post", Accessed 22 June 2006.] and some social scientists and economists claim that the government's reported poverty figures have not fallen in proportion to the country's vast oil revenues in the last two years. The president of the private Venezuelan research firm which documented 55% real income growth among the poorest sectors of society said that, although his surveys showed rising incomes because of subsidies and grants, the number of people in the worst living conditions has grown. "The poor of Venezuela are living much better lately and have increased their purchasing power . . . [but] without being able to improve their housing, education level, and social mobility," he said. "Rather than help [the poor] become stakeholders in the economic system, what [the government has] done is distribute as much oil wealth as possible in missions and social programs."Lakshmanam, Indira A.R. [ Critics slam Venezuelan oil windfall spending.] "Boston Globe" (13 August 2006).]

According to government figures, unemployment has dropped by 6.9% since the start of Chávez's presidency. ["Instituto Nacional de Estadistica".("INE", Jan 1999) [ Globales de Fuerza de Trabajo] . Retrieved 13 Jun 2006."Taza de Desocupacion 16.6%" es icon] ["Instituto Nacional de Estadistica".("INE", April 2006) [ Globales de Fuerza de Trabajo] . Retrieved 13 Jun 2006."Taza de Desocupacion 9.7%" es icon] Despite high oil revenues, Venezuela's rate of unemployment remains at 10% in February 2006 from the 2003 high of 20%, which occurred during a two-month strike and business lockout that shut down the country's oil industry. However, some economists argue that recent job creation may not be permanent, for it relies on an expanded public payroll that will become unaffordable if oil prices fall. With the help of an expanded public payroll, unemployment has been reduced from the 2003 high under Chávez of 20%, but some economists argue that the jobs may not be permanent, and critics question the government's reported poverty figures, based on contradictory statistics and definitions, which they say have not fallen enough considering the country's vast oil revenues in the last two years.The Economist (Feb 16, 2006), [ Venezuela: Mission Impossible.] "The Economist". Retrieved 22 June 2006.] "The Economist" reports that both poverty and unemployment figures under Chávez have not seen significant improvement and that official corruption under his government continues to be rampant, [The Economist (Mar 30 2006), [ "Venezuela: The sickly stench of corruption".] "The Economist. Accessed 19 June 2006.] and point to the 1-2% drop in Venezuela's per-capita GDP early in Chávez's term, before the 2004 surge in oil prices.Economist (June 2003). [ "Country Briefings: Venezuela Factsheet".] "The Economist". Accessed June 4, 2003.] According to "The Boston Globe", critics say the government defines "informal workers, such as street vendors, as employed, and exclud [es] adults who are studying in missions from unemployment numbers." When the president of the Venezuelan National Statistics Institute released numbers in 2005 which showed that poverty had actually risen by more than 10 points under Chávez (to 53% in 2004), Chávez called for a new measure of poverty, defining a "social well-being index". Under this new definition, poverty registers at 40 percent. The minimum wage in Venezuela in July 2006 covered only 65 percent of the cost of the basic food basket. [ [ Food basket heightens.] "El Universal" (August 2, 2006).]

The Heritage Foundation's Index of Economic Freedom ranked Venezuela 152 out of 157 countries, among the 12 economies of the world labelled "repressed". [ Heritage Foundation (2006), [ "2006 Index of Economic Freedom: Venezuela".] Accessed 27 June 2006.]

The government and independent observers refute the charges of economic decline by pointing out that the renewed economic growth of the last two years has brought rapid reductions in poverty, especially when one considers the vast expansion of non-cash income represented by subsidized food distribution and other social programs.Weisbrot, M., Sandoval, L., and Rosnick, D. (2006), [ "Poverty Rates In Venezuela: Getting The Numbers Right".] "Center for Economic and Policy Research". Accessed May 31, 2006.]

Decaying infrastructure

At the same time, The Economist opines that the administration's unwillingness to utilize private sector resources has resulted in a crumbling public infrastructure and a deficit in housing.The Economist (Feb 16, 2006). [ Venezuela: Mission Impossible.] "The Economist", Retrieved 22 June 2006.] Critics cite the many public hospitals that lack basic medicine and hygienic supplies. They also question the motives behind the Bolivarian Missions' regular cash and in-kind payments to the millions of poor Venezuelans enrolling in their social programs. With many enrollees participating in more than one Mission simultaneously, receiving a steady and unearned income, critics worry that work ethic will be corrupted and enrollees will be predisposed to support and vote for Chávez. There have been marked improvements in the infant mortality rate between 1998 and 2005. [Central Intelligence Agency. (CIA, 1998). " [ The World Factbook 1998: Venezuela.] " Retrieved 18 Oct 2005.] Central Intelligence Agency. (CIA, 2005). " [ The World Factbook 2005: Venezuela.] " Retrieved 18 Oct 2005.]

Housing construction

According to Venezuela's "El Universal", one of the Chávez administration's outstanding weaknesses is the failure to meet its goals of construction of housing. Chávez promised to build 150,000 houses in 2006, but in the first half of the year, completed only 24 percent of that target, with 35,000 houses. [ [ Chávez' Government has built 24 percent of scheduled houses.] "El Universal" (July 31, 2006).]

tandard of living

According to "The Boston Globe", the head of Mission Sucre, a program to provide free and ongoing education, says that “investments in education, health, and infrastructure will have a lasting effect on standard of living”. Data from a private Venezuelan research firm shows the incomes of the “poorest Venezuelans have risen because of subsidies and grants”. The "Globe" reports that the government has “subsidized markets in poor neighborhoods that sell staple foods up to 40 percent cheaper than elsewhere.” Low income residents are reportedly living better because of subsidies that boost household income, decrease food costs, and provide access to free schooling and basic medical care. Chavez’s “missions” offer education, aid to the needy, soup kitchens, and medical care.


Since he took office, "The Economist" reports that the murder rate has almost tripled, and that Venezuela's capitalndash Caracasndash has become South America's most violent, with police implicated in some of the crimes.The Economist, (April 20, 2006), [ "Venezuela: Crimes and misdemeanours.] "The Economist". Accessed 26 June 2006.] Amnesty International (2006), [ "AI Report 2006: Venezuela".] Accessed 22 June 2006.] The United Nations reported in 2005 that Venezuela had the highest number of deaths by gunfire per capita in the world, [Chicago Tribune (June 12, 2006), [,1,7033002.story?ctrack=1&cset=true "In Venezuela, crime runs 'absolutely out of control' ".] Accessed 22 June 2006.] garnering for Venezuela claim to the title of the world's most violent crime capital.Reel, M. [ "Crime Brings Venezuelans Into Streets".] "Washington Post" (May 10, 2006), p. A17. Accessed 24 June 2006.]

Critics claim that Chávez's policies are responsible for some of these declines.Corrales, Javier. "Hugo Boss". "Foreign Policy". Jan 1, 2006.] Reel, M. [ "Crime Brings Venezuelans Into Streets".] "Washington Post" (May 10, 2006), p. A17. Accessed 24 June 2006.] and the U.S. State Department says there is unchecked concentration of power in the executive.U.S. Department of State (December 1, 2005). [ "The State of Democracy in Venezuela".] Accessed 18 June 2006.]

Critics accuse the Bolivarian Circles Chávez founded of furthering violence,Morsbach, Greg. ("BBC", 12 Jun 2002). [ "Chavez accused of fostering militia links"] . Retrieved 13 Jun 2006.] and say Chávez's new civil reserve defense force is intended to intimidate domestic opponents and repress internal dissent.Chávez government officials respond that the reserve is similar to civilian reserves and forces in many nations, including the United States.Ceaser, M. ("BBC", 1 Jul 2005). [ "Chavez's 'citizen militias' on the march".] Retrieved 27 June 2006.] According to a study by Brigham Young University scholars, the "Bolivarian circles" also help the government identify opponents, who are then denied services. [Davis, Bob. "Move Over, Che: Chavez Is New Icon of Radical Chic." "Wall Street Journal" (Eastern edition). New York, N.Y.: Jun 16, 2006. p. A1.]


Some criticism has come from Chávez's supporters. Chávez's own political party, Fifth Republic Movement (MVR), has been criticized as being riddled with the same cronyism, political patronage, and corruption that Chávez alleged were characteristic of the old "Fourth Republic" political parties. Venezuela's trade unionists and indigenous communities have participated in peaceful demonstrations intended to impel the government to speed up labor and land reforms. These communities, while largely expressing their sympathy and support for Chávez, criticize what they see as Chávez's slow progress in protecting their interests against managers and mining concerns, respectively.Verify credibility|date=March 2008 [Fuentes, F. (2005), "Venezuela Analysis", [ "Challenges for Venezuela's Workers’ Movement".] "Venezuela Analysis". Accessed 15 February 2006.] [Márquez, H. "Venezuela Analysis" (2005), [ "Venezuela's Indigenous Peoples Protest Coal Mining".] "Inter Press Service". Accessed 2 February 2006.] [Parma, A. "Venezuela Analysis" (2005a), [ "Pro-Chavez Union Leaders in Venezuela Urge Chavez to Do Better".] "Venezuela Analysis". Accessed 26 January 2006.]

Farmers have protested about the lack of a consistent policy addressing prices, smuggling, insecurity and crime. [ [ Farmers' protests escalate.] "El Universal" (August 3, 2006).]

According to an article in "The Washington Post" a program called "Mission Identity", to fast track voter registration of immigrants to Venezuelandash including Chávez supporters benefiting from his subsidiesndash has been put in place prior to the upcoming 2006 presidential elections.Bronstein, H. (June 14, 2006), [ "Colombians in Venezuela thank Chavez for new life",] "Washington Post", Accessed 22 June 2006. Also available [ here.] ]



* Harvard reference
author=Niemeyer, Ralph T.
first=Ralph T.
title=Under Attack: Morning Dawn in Venezuela
id=ISBN 0-595-66208-0

External links

* [ Gobierno en Línea: Misiones] ndash Official government website detailing the Bolivarian Missions.
* [ Misión Barrio Adentro] ndash Official government Mission Barrio Adentro web portal.
* [ Instituto Nacional de Estadística] ndash Venezuela's National Institute of Statistics; has web several portals for accessing demographic and economic data related to the impact of Bolivarian Missions.
* [ Barrio Adentro] ndash Official government dossier on "Barrio Adentro" (in Spanish)
* [ Aló Presidente 225] ndash Video of a July 2005 episode of Hugo Chávez's talkshow Aló Presidente that features an eight hour tour of a new Barrio Adentro II CDI (Centros de Diagnóstico Integral) in Maturín, Monagas state, Venezuela.
* [ Programa Nro. 225 - Aló Presidente] ndash Transcript of Aló Presidente 225.
* [ Venezuela's Cooperative Revolution] from Dollars & Sense magazine

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