Modern Venezuelan history, according to “Chavism”

School textbooks glorify Chávez while pointing out “errors” of previous administrations

Caracas -
René González and Maduro hold a portrait of the late Chávez
René González and Maduro hold a portrait of the late ChávezEFE

On the backside of the book, there is a list of names of the people who gave birth to the so-called Bicentennial Collection—the series of textbooks that have been distributed in public schools by the government across Venezuela.

At the top of the list is the late President Hugo Chávez, followed by his appointed successor, the current President Nicolás Maduro. Then appear the names of the education minister, deputy ministers, and other officials, who have been responsible for promoting “Chavism” – the philosophy that Chávez had touted as a continuation of the pro-independence movement of 19th-century liberator Simón Bolívar.

In the book, The History of Contemporary Venezuela, a required text for high school students, the first chapter reads: “When we enter the second half of the 21st century, we will begin talking about a modernized Venezuelan society, whose roots were based on the American style that came from the United States of America from 1824. We bring up this fact so that the reader can become aware of its reappearance in the following pages within the framework of Venezuela’s foreign trade relations.”

This sentence sets the stage for the entire 272-page book, which was first published in 2011 and updated this year for a third time. The textbook is one of about 70 written by the authors of the Bicentennial Collection, a series that is required reading from first grade through to graduation in Venezuelan public schools.

The United States is compared to the Third Reich of Nazi Germany

The United States is described as the black menace that prevented the consolidation of the Latin American republics, and is compared to the Third Reich of Nazi Germany. Even the democratically elected governments prior to Chávez – from the overthrow of the dictator Marcos Pérez Jiménez in 1958 to Rafael Caldera’s administration that ended in 1999 – are blamed for Venezuela’s social inequalities and stunted economic growth.

It was only after Chávez came to office, the text states, that Venezuelans began seeing a brighter future.

A collection of rewritings of modern history by unknown authors, the text idolizes Chávez and his movement while demonizing the United States and other nations who do not share in the same philosophy.

“The first observation is that the books are not qualified as texts under the 1997 Basic Education Law or for the so-called Bolivarian school curriculum,” said Mariano Herrera, a teacher who is also the education coordinator for the opposition, in an article published by TalCual in October. “In many instances, the passages and examples are manipulations designed to exalt the current regime and foment a personality cult.”

Herrera’s observations address the many of the concerns harbored by parents and those who don’t share the Chavism philosophy.

According to the pro-Chávez historians, President Rómulo Betancourt, who led Venezuela’s first democratically elected government (1959-1964) after Pérez Jiménez’s overthrow, was responsible for suppressing the country’s budding leftist forces, which eventually had to resort taking up arms in guerrilla fronts across the country, mimicking Fidel Castro’s offensive in Cuba’s Sierra Madre some years earlier.

We are pointing out things that other books have omitted: bothersome truths”

The betrayal of the leftists first began -- according to the book – with the signing of the Punto Fijo Pact – an accord between the nation’s main political parties (Democratic Action (AD), Democratic Republican Union (URD) and the Social Christians (Copei) that set the framework for democracy and allowed the first cabinet to be formed. The Venezuelan Communist Party (PCV), which had helped in the overthrow of the Pérez Jiménez dictatorship, was left out of the pact.

Another alleged example of treachery against the left was the Venezuelan government’s support in 1960 for the expulsion of Cuba from the Organization of American States (OAS).

“Since 1959, when the first demonstrations took place in Ciudad Bolívar that claimed many lives and caused many injuries, Betancourt gave orders to ‘shoot first and ask questions later’ at any ‘public disturbance’ that breaks out against ‘democracy’,” the text reads.

The entire book concentrates in finding fault with every administration before Chávez. The chapter on the presidency of Raúl Leoni (1964-1969) is centered on the continued suppression of the guerrilla movements and the introduction of a National Security policy backed by the United States, which included torture, kidnappings and forced disappearances.

The administrations of Rafael Caldera (1969-1974), Carlos Andrés Pérez (1974-1979), Luis Herrera Campins (1979-1984) and Jaime Lusinchi (1984-1989) are dismissed as having bowed down to foreign powers, which made Venezuela a dependent country, and agreeing to the “corrupt” international stipulations on the country’s growing debt, which eventually resulted in a chronic economic crisis.

The re-elections of Pérez (1989-1993) and Caldera (1994-1999) are described in the text as having led to administrations that obeyed Washington. But the nationwide riots that took place on February 23, 1989, popularly known as El Caracazo, during the first year of Pérez’s second term are seen as the stage for the two coup attempts that took place in 1992 — the first being led by Chávez, who was a paratrooper at that time.

The entire history book is actually a hagiography dedicated to the errors and mistakes made by governments before Chávez and the adjustments he made. Sixty pages are devoted to the first three years of Chávez’s presidency (1999-2002).

In an interview with the pro-government Correo del Orinoco daily last October, América Bracho, a professor who coordinated the texts, said no Venezuelan should fear any of the 35 million books that have been distributed in public schools.

“The aim of these books is to promote free thinking. We are not indoctrinating anyone. Any child or adolescent can use these books regardless of the political leanings of their families. We are pointing out things that other books have omitted: bothersome truths.”

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