1.3 million benefit from Venezuela-Cuba literacy campaign

Campaign News | Saturday, 2 October 2004

Cuba helps milions to read and write

CARACAS, Venezuela - Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez said yesterday that 1.3 million students have graduated from a Cuba-backed literacy programme that has become a banner of his "revolution for the poor."

"This is the path to freedom, it's not just about learning to read and write, it's the first step toward emerging from darkness," said Chavez, speaking at a graduation ceremony in Caracas for 50,000 students.

Almost 39,000 members of Venezuela's indigenous tribes, including Yanomami Indians of the remote Amazon jungle region, have graduated from the year-old programme.

Chavez, a self-proclaimed "revolutionary" and close ally of Cuban President Fidel Castro, vowed to wipe out illiteracy by the end of the current year.

The literacy programme uses Cuban methods and materials to teach adults basic reading and writing skills. Chavez denies allegations that his government is using the programme to indoctrinate the poor with communist ideology.

According to US figures, more than 2 million Venezuelans are illiterate.

In Cuba, thousands of volunteers mobilised following Fidel Castro's 1959 revolution in a campaign that reduced illiteracy from 23 per cent of the population to 3 per cent.

Emboldened by his victory of the August 15 recall referendum, Chavez pledged that candidates from his ruling coalition would sweep regional elections on October 31.

"It will be another victory," Chavez said.


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