Wednesday, October 15, 2008

Response to Query: Paradox of Affluence

By Jocelyn Perez

The discussion on “The Paradox of Wealth in Latin America: Perspectives on Venezuela” shed some much needed light on the issues affecting our neighboring country. The panel touched on topics like the rise of socialism, international relations, wealth distribution and legislative reform. I found Gregory Wilpert’s remarks about how President Hugo Chavez came to power to be surprisingly interesting, because I had not known that it was due to the people’s insistence for change, both economic and political, that contributed to his election. Then, his rejection of any influence from the Venezuelan elite, and his use of nepotism allowed him to impose radical change on the government.

These changes lead to the growth of socialism, which according to Consul Delgado was a form of stronger, more participatory democracy. She spoke with so much conviction that it proved to be incredibly moving. She argued that it was a far more effective way of securing the people’s rights and basic needs, like food, shelter, and education. Delgado firmly believes in the new constitutions and policies being passed across South America, and does not doubt that the written word can soon reflect the reality. This idea of a model Venezuelan government, though hopeful, is very ironic. There are hillsides converted into shantytowns and consumers unable to keep up with the constant inflation. As the population density increases, so does the number of those suffering in poverty. The system is still obviously flawed, but then again, which isn’t?

I believe that only through awareness and unity will we be able to address these issues, an idea expressed by Professor Hernandez. She referred to a series of programs and types of “misiones” that promote cultural education and critical thinking. It is a way to spread cultural unity across Latin America and allow well-rounded students to excel academically. The illiteracy rate has even decreased to roughly one percent of the Venezuelan population from the twenty percent it had been in recent years. Hernandez also mentioned the online television network, TeleSur, which serves as a window to global news. I have found the site to be both educational and entertaining.

Overall, the conference proved to be an enlightening experience. I enjoyed speaking with Consul Delgado afterwards and sharing my worries with her. An opportunity of this kind does not come around often, and I am honored that I was able to take part in it.

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