From the Poor to the Poor

La Vega is one of the poorest districts in the overcrowded poor hillside barrios in Caracas. On the drive there, you see stalls of people selling food and any other items of any value in the "informal" economy that sustains most of the world's poor. Garbage is spread everywhere. Makeshift housing of tin roofs seem to squirm up the mountainsides.

On Sunday, January 29, I was able to tour the district with members of the revolutionary government in Venezuela. Our main goal was to visit one of the communal housing areas where new schools, a new and clean market, a free medical unit, and a computer center have been built. The people in the communal house greeted the various members of the tour, which included Brazilians, Bolivians, Argentinians, US citizens, and others. They were so hospitable and eager to share the benefits they attribute to Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez. Still, as one of the organizers said, "these benefits are not just a result of Hugo Chavez and the government; they are a result of the people getting organized and demanding that our needs are met."

I met two Cuban doctors and a nurse who lived 24 hours in a small structure to provide medical care to the community. One doctor, Osvaldo, has been in Venezuela for three years. He said the medical care is free to the community, not just the poor. "Anyone who comes here for health care, whether they are poor, middle-class or rich, will get it. It's for everyone," Osvaldo said.

We also talked to a family of Colombian refugees who fled the war and poverty of their country. They have now been in Venezuela for some 25 years. They are some of the strongest supporters of what the revolutionary government has provided to the people there. "We have seen the changes," the grandmother of the family said. "I was here when Venezuela had a repression and unresponsive government. Now we are being helped and provided for. I wish something like this could happen in Colombia."

In a couple of days, I return to the United States, renewed by this experience in the World Social Forum and in Venezuela to heighten our struggles for the well-being of the people in my country as well. The US is a country, despite its vast resources and power, that does not have healthcare for close to 40 million people; where 80 million are listed as below the poverty level; and where three million are imprisoned mostly for just being poor.

Almost all the Venezuelans I talked to were eager to hear about what Americans thought of their country and about Hugo Chavez. Unfortunately, little is known about Chavez or the revolutionary process in Venezuela--and what is often put out is misinformation and even lies. I hope to help break the blackout on the news of the poor, whether they be in the US or in other parts of the world. The coming together of our struggles, across national boundaries, language and racial differences, and even politics is more real now with the common objectives of ending poverty, misery, and war in the world once and for all.

That's quite a goal, almost impossible as some may say. But those are the ones worth fighting for.

Be the first to comment

Please check your e-mail for a link to activate your account.