Thursday, March 09, 2006

Life in a stronghold of the "Bolivarian Revolution"

Lara, Venezuela- Rito Martinez a former guerilla fighter with flowing white hair and a long white beard stands in the town square of Sanare, a small mountain village. Sanare is located in the state of Lara, a state which lies roughly 200 miles southwest of Caracas, Venezuela's capital. Inspired by the revolution in Cuba Martinez along with thousands of other fighters in the 1960s took to the surrounding mountainside. In response the Venezuelan government pursued these fighters imprisoning or "disappearing" thousands of guerillas and their sympathizers. For 9 years Martinez was held captive in what he describes as "a rodent infested tunnel with prison cages." Today the sons and daughters of Martinez’s generation carry forth their left wing legacy and earn Lara the reputation of being called the 'most revolutionary state in the country.'

By utilizing oil money the Chavez government has implemented massive social welfare programs which have in turn caused an explosion of grass roots political activity. This process taken as a whole is referred to simultaneously as 'the revolutionary process,' 'the Bolivarian process,' or 'the process of change.' It is here in Lara, perhaps more so than anywhere else in the country, that 'the process of change' has made such dramatic strides. Lara therefore provides a glimpse as to how this process works and where it is taking Venezuela.