Thousands protest against Chavez's education reforms in Venezuela
CARACAS, Venezuela (AP) -- In the largest protest against President Hugo
government to date, some 5,000 parents and teachers demonstrated Friday against what
they say is a push to tighten state grip on education and introduce leftist ideology in
Chanting "Chavez, don't mess with my children!" and waving banners, the
demonstrators marched through the streets of the capital city, Caracas, to the Ministry of
The unexpected protest was against a new decree that allowed the ministry
to fire teachers and administrators in private and public schools based on information
collected by supervisors picked by the government.
Critics of the decree fear the ministry will sack officials who oppose
that promote Chavez's so-called "Bolivarian" ideology -- a leftist doctrine loosely
based on the ideas of 19th century independence hero Simon Bolivar.
"We don't want to be led toward communism," said demonstrator Carmen
Oropeza, a mother of two.
"He tried to mess with our schools and civil society and we will not accept
said Elias Santana, a human rights activist.
Chavez says reforms are needed to make education more accessible to poor
children. Shortly after becoming president in 1998, he abolished registration fees
in public schools, a move he claims allowed 400,000 new students to enroll.
"Children of the rich who want to pay can pay. But private education can't
driven only by money," Chavez said on Wednesday.
Education Minister Hector Navarro said he created the new team of inspectors
because teachers' unions had too much control over education supervision under
the old system.
The reform project is spearheaded by a Marxist sociologist, Carlos Lanz,
says his goal is to expunge what he considers a bias in Venezuelan education
toward "consumerism and capitalism."
Lanz, who was a leftist guerrilla in the 1960's, says he wants to instill
in students to replace an idea supposedly shared among young Venezuelans that
they are "citizens of world."
People were worried that the government was going to use education as an
instrument for "guaranteeing the success of the revolutionary process," said Juan
Raffalle, an opposition legislator and legal adviser to the Chamber of Venezuelan
A leftist and self-proclaimed revolutionary, Chavez has created more than
so-called "Bolivarian schools," pilot programs, which, among other innovations,
teach military education.
Military education has been mandatory in Venezuela since 1978 but only
percent of schools enforce it.
Copyright 2001 The Associated Press.