8) Barrio Viente Tres de Enero, the Misións & a Trial of the CIA

Ché Guevara is a huge icon in the Bolivarian Revolution, which probably does nothing to dispel the fears of the Opposition, considering their Cubaphobia. Portraits of the revolutionary guerilla warrior can be seen just about everywhere you turn in Caracas. They are particularly plentiful in the barrio Viente Tres de Enero.

As part of the Second Solidarity Conference, on Thursday, April 15, we toured this particular barrio, along with a number of other international participants. Several special events were coordinated for the Conference, including tours of community programs instituted under the Chávez government's "misións", and a symbolic "Trial of the CIA".

Late in the evening, we were given a presentation of various data by a private consultant from Datanalisis Company.

Barrio Viente Tres de Enero

Viente Tres de Enero is comprised of several barrios, and in total is home to 1.5 million people. It was constructed, like all the barrios around Caracas as a spreading community of lower class people coming to the city to find a source of income. Viente Tres de Enero was built from 1955-57, and officially named in 1958 when the dictatorship of Marcos Pérez Jiménez fell. Caracas Metropolitan police do not patrol the barrios. Each has its own paramilitary corps of young men and women who band together to police staked out districts. In the district we visited, the group called themselves the Coordinadora Simón Bolivar, or the Bolivarian Coordinators.

Bolivarian Coordinators 

Barrio Viente Tres de Enero

The Misión Robinson literacy program and Misión Ribas high school program in Viente Tres de Enero are held in the small community library. Community residents who have not had the opportunity of an education come here to learn. Adult classes are held in the evenings. On this day, several people recreated one of their classes, and a traditional dance class for young children was being held throughout the day as a demonstration for Conference visitors. Math programs are conducted through computer video courses provided from Cuba. We had the opportunity to speak with some of the people of the community who are in the program. One question asked was, "What do you know about America?" A man who appeared to be in his mid-thirties or so responded, "We know that the US wants to police the world."

Kwami Abdul-Rey photo

Trial of the CIA
Six-member panel recounting CIA involvement in Latin American affairs

I regret that I did not take notes at this meeting. This was the time and place where Samuel Moncada made the remarks that were later told to us by our guide Marcela, and which inspired me to write this report. (See the introduction.) The only things I marked down were that there were two Lieutenant Colonels from the U.S. army at Ft. Tiuna when Chávez was held in captivity during the 2002 coup, and the countries represented on the panel of "judges" were: El Salvador (Blanca Flora, FMLN member of parliament in charge of international relations, U.S. (Teresa Gutierrez, co-director of the International Action Center), Puerto Rico (R. Pérez, who spent 20 years imprisoned on a charge of conspiracy), Venezuela (Professors Henry Suarez and Samuel Moncada, Director of the History Department at the Univerisdad Central de Venezuela in Caracas, PhD in Modern History from Oxford University, St. Anthony's College), and Chile (a Communist party member).

Dr. Samuel Moncada - Trial of the CIA
Barrio 23 de Enero, Caracas, Venezuela April 15, 2004


By this point, I was overly tired, and unable to remain through the whole data slide presentation. I did not even get the name of the presenter, who claimed that the private consulting company Datanalisis is non-partisan.

[Note 06/27/04: I have just read a report of a U.S. Senate Hearing held June 24 and found this comment interesting:
"A Los Angeles Times reporter interviewed one of the country's most respected pollsters, from the firm Datanalisis, Jose Antonio Gil. The firm's polls are often cited in the US press. According to the L.A. Times, he could see only one way out of the political crisis surrounding President Hugo Chavez. ‘He has to be killed,’ he said, using his finger to stab the table in his office... ‘He has to be killed’… It is hard to imagine an opposition of this type in the United States -- they would probably be labeled as terrorists here."
Now, more than ever, I wish I had gotten the name of the presenter for this GX session.

Note 08/14/04: Another article I have come across expounds on Datanalisis, including the comments from Mr. Gil: Spinning “Lies, Damned Lies, and Statistics”]

NOTES from the presentation:
  • GDP is currently at its lowest point (matching 1983). In 1999 when Chávez took over, it rose for the first couple of years and has been dropping back steadily to its very low point now.
  • Unemployment was at its highest when Chávez took power, went down slightly and is currently rising sharply.
  • 53% of the people work in the informal sector. (My note: I'm not sure what that is, but assume it refers to non-governmental positions. I could be very off the mark. Update 30 May 04: Jules Siegel  has written to correct my assumption: "informal sector refers to people who do not work for established businesses or pay taxes, but are street vendors, shoeshine boys, and the like." So, 53% of the people trying to make a living on the streets, should give you an idea of the social/economic picture. Where we stayed, there was a large avenue nearby - Av. Abraham Lincoln - several blocks of which comprised a shopping district. On the sidewalks in front of the shops were street vendors, side by side, with no break between them except where the streets crossed. These were people selling everyday items: clothing, sundries, music CDs, sunglasses, etc. --- Thank you, Mr. Siegel.)
  • Real income is decreasing, and the rate of decrease is increasing.
  • The middle class is rapidly decreasing.
  • Families' highest expense is food, at 34% of their income. The next highest is housing and utilities, at 20%.