Venezuelan President Nicolás Maduro's New York Times op-ed last week was full of the usual bullshit-- his (so-called) commitment to labor organizing rights, the (non-existent) U.S. involvement in the 2002 coup, the (absence of) vitality of Venezuelan democracy, and a call for "peace and dialogue" (after his opponents have been killed or jailed, of course). But according to Francisco Toro, the most bald-faced lies from Maduro are his claims that Chavez's Bolivarian revolution "created flagship universal health care and education programs, free to our citizens nationwide."
Free universal education was a stated aspiration of Venezuelan governments going back as far as the 1800's. In 1946, however, Venezuela's first elected, social democratic government rode to power partly due to a commitment to make that vision a reality. Free education, including at the university level, was an ideological cornerstone of successive governments beginning in 1958. Under the leadership of the great educational reformer Luis Beltrán Prieto Figueroa, the government created one of Latin America's first adult education institutions-- INCE. in the 1960's, Figueroa pushed to increase adult literacy through the famous ACUDE program.
in 1938, still in the era of dictatorships, landmark public hospitals were being built and treating patients free of charge. The 1961 constitution—the one chavismo insisted on replacing, seeing it as a vehicle for neo-imperial domination—guaranteed free public health care in article 76. Even today, virtually every major hospital in the country was built before the Bolivarian revolution, whose contribution was limited to a secondary network of outpatient clinics staffed by Cuban medics and located inside poorer areas that, in the view of many, ended up largely diverting resources that would have been better spent upgrading the increasingly ramshackle legacy hospital network.