Just under a million Venezuelan children from the shanty towns and the poorest villages now obtain a free education; 1.2 million illiterate adults have been taught to read and write; secondary education has been made available to 250,000 children whose social status excluded them from this privilege during the ancien régime; three new university campuses were functioning by 2003 and six more are due to be completed by 2006.
As far as healthcare is concerned, the 14,000 Cuban doctors sent to help the country have transformed the situation in the poor districts, where 11,000 neighbourhood clinics have been estab- lished and the health budget has tripled. Add to this the financial support provided to small businesses, the new homes being built for the poor, an Agrarian Reform Law that was enacted and pushed through despite resistance, legal and violent, by the landlords. By the end of 2003, just over 2,262,467 hectares had been redistributed to 116,899 families.
The bizarre argument advanced in a hostile editorial in The Economist (as in Gunson's article in Vertigo) during the week of the referendum, namely, that all this was done to win votes, is extraordinarily obtuse. Here the defenders of the global elite confuse their own machinations with reality. In the globalised world, where there are no basic differences between competing political factions of the elite, politics is exclusively about power; a world in which Clinton and Bush's billionaire backers, or the financiers who supported first Thatcher, then Blair, can cross sides with ease.
The Bolivarian currents in Latin America are important precisely because they pose a challenge to traditional cacique politics. That is why they are loathed by the elites and their media propagandists. If Chávez had simply been interested in power he could have easily done a deal with the local oligarchy and won the support of the global financial press. The Bolivarians wanted power precisely so that real reforms could be implemented.
After reading Shlomo Sand's The Invention of the Jewish People, President Moncef Morzouki of Tunisia asks about the lessons Sand's book might have for other nations and peoples.
Do we, too, have a fabricated history?
There is no doubt about it - the book The Invention of the Jewish People by the Jewish Israeli historian Shlomo Sand, which stirred up great controversy in Israel and was translated into 26 languages in less than a year, came as a pleasant surprise to all its Arab readers, including to the author of these lines.
What this historian, whose hostility towards Zionism cannot be dismissed as mere Anti-Semitism, establishes very clearly is that the Zionist claim to their right to the lands of Palestine is void. He proves, relying on a vast amount of sources – many of them Jewish – that the forceful expulsion of the Jews from Palestine after the destruction of the Second Temple by the Romans is a myth.... that the preservation of a pure race during years of exile is a myth... that the claim that the ones who returned to conquer Palestine were the grandchildren of those exiled thousands of years earlier is a myth... And even the exodus from Egypt and the Kingdom of David and Salomon, all of these are legends upon legends.
Writing in Libération, Jacques Rancière talks about populism and French politics today.
The People Are Not a Brutal and Ignorant Mass
Not a day goes by without the risks of populism being denounced on all sides. But it is not so easy to grasp what the word denotes. What is a populist? Despite various fluctuations of meaning, the dominant discourse seems to characterize it in terms of three essential features: a style of speech addressed directly to the people, bypassing representatives and dignitaries; the assertion that governments and ruling elites are more concerned with feathering their own nest than with the public interest; a rhetoric of identity that expresses fear and rejection of foreigners.