Venezuela's industry booms under President Chávez

by Olivia Kroth

Sources: Blog Hugo Chávez, Correo del Orinoco, Patria Grande, Pravda, Prensa Latina, Venezuelanalysis

During the presidency of Hugo Chávez, Venezuela is turning into a major industrial player in Latin America. The country's entry into Mercosur will give it an additional boost. 

President Chávez recently explained that Venezuela's five main regions are to be developped as five hubs, each with a different, specified task.

The first hub is the Orinoco Oil Belt, north of the Orinoco river, with the states of Anzoátegui, Delta Amacuro, Guárico and Monagas. Here, the largest crude oil reserves worldwide are to be found. 

The second hub is the Orinoco Mining Belt, south of the Orinoco river, corresponding to the states of Amazonas and Bolívar. The area is rich in bauxite, gold and iron. 

The third is a science and technology hub in the north-central region, comprising the states of Aragua, Capital District, Carabobo, Lara, Miranda, Vargas and Yaracuy. 

The fourth is a petro-chemical hub in the western states of Falcón and Zulia. 

The fifth is an agricultural hub, located in the grassland (Llanos) and the Andes with the states of Apure, Barinas, Portuguesa, Mérida, Táchira and Trujillo.

Regarding the first two hubs, north and south of the Orinoco river, an "Orinoco Axis of Development" shall be formed. Both hubs, with oil and mining combined, will develop more synergy. They cover an area of about 100.000 square kilometers.

President Chávez met with more than 1.000 workers in Venezuelan Guayana to sign an agreement of collaboration between the state-owned oil company PDVSA and the Guayana Venezolana Corporation (CVG). 

The Bolivarian Government approved 324 million USD for the steel plant, Sidor, to update its technology and install new machinery for round billet mould assembly. The steel tubs produced with this machinery will go to the oil industry. 

The Sidor steel plant was nationalized in 2008. Sidor workers introduced a model of production and workers' control, the "Plan Socialist Guyana 2009-2012". The Bolivarian Government approved 160 million USD for social benefits and overtime payments, owed to the workers of Guayana CVG and the Venezuela Guayana Corporation. 

For the upcoming government period 2013-2019, Ricardo Menéndez will remain Minister of Industry, while Rafael Ramírez will continue as Minister of Oil and Mining, as well as president of PDVSA. 

Rafael Ramírez said that the Bolivarian Government received about 384.000 million USD of oil taxes from 1999 to 2012. This income was invested in agriculture, education, health and housing, according to President Chávez.

A new railroad shall connect the Caribbean Sea with the Amazonas Basin, leading through Venezuelan Guayana to develop the area as a major economic force. Venezuelan Guayana is a region that stretches over parts of Amazonas, Bolívar and Delta Amacuro.

Hugo Chávez also proposed to build new workers' homes in the Orinoco Oil Belt. The plans show modern single family-houses in local design. The President wants to construct new towns in the Faja del Orinoco, with all the basic services included, like drinking water, electricity, health and sports facilities. 

He insisted that these new towns should be initiated soon, otherwise the workers will start putting up their own provisional dwellings, which must be avoided. No more shantytowns in Venezuela!

New housing is also in progress in the science and technology hub of the north-central region, mainly in the states of Aragua and Miranda. 

Petare, in the state of Miranda, is the largest shantytown of Venezuela, overpopulated, with more than 500.000 inhabitants living in rather precarious dwellings. 

The shanties will soon be replaced by proper housing. Public spaces, new footpaths, roads and a fly-over to avoid traffic jams are in the planning, too. The Bolivarian cable train and the Mariche Metro Cable will connect Petare with the Caracas Metro system. 

A bridge over the Guaire River will also be set up. The name, Petare, stems from the indigenous Mariche language. It means "facing the river," the nearby Guaire River.

Moreover, three markets shall be established in Petare, where street sellers can offer their goods. Bicentenary food markets, socialist areperas, a theater, school and sports arena will further dignify Petare, giving the town a completely new face.

In the state of Aragua, 229 new houses were handed over to local families, each house with a size of 62 square meters, 3 bedrooms, 2 bathrooms, 1 living room, 1 dining room and a fully equipped kitchen. 

The Venezuelan Minister of Social Protection for Communes, Isis Ochoa, informed that the government spent 2.6 million bolivares to "develop the spirit of integral habitat transformation." 

Currently, about 3.600 people are living in provisional shelters in the state of Aragua, due to recent inundations of the Tacarigua River. These people all need new housing urgently. 

Rafael Isea, the Governor of Aragua, announced that a total of 8.800 new homes will be erected before the end of this year. 6.800 of them have already been finished. "We are pushing forward hard to keep our promises and deliver the rest rather sooner than later," Rafael Isea emphasized. 

New homes were also built in the state of Falcón. Stella Lugo, the Governor of Falcón, handed out 48 keys to families in Velita V, a quarter of Falcón's capital Coro, another 100 keys to families in Silva, and 100 more in Palmasola. 

Moreover, 1.024 apartments are being built in the state of Falcón. They comprise of 3 bedrooms, 1 bathroom, 1 living room, 1 kitchen with dining corner and 1 laundry room. The new homes are being constructed under the auspices of Venezuela's Great Socialist Housing Mission (Gran Misión Vivienda Venezuela). 

President Chávez promised to his people that all of them will get their own proper, decent living space. He is a man who keeps his promises, as can be clearly seen by his deeds. 

In the capital city, Caracas, old streets are being renovated. Jaqueline Faría, Governor of the Capital District, said that 9.000 cubic meters of asphalt were repaired in 2012. This measure also meant restoring drainage and drinking water connections, as Jaqueline Faría explained in the TV program "Contragolpe," emitted by Venezolana de Televisión. The works were carried out in the quarters of Antímano, El Valle and La Vega. Overall, 250.000 tonnes of asphalt were used to restore streets in Caracas. 

There were 24.800 tonnes of asphalt brought out in Barcelona, and another 5.963 tonnes in Puerto La Cruz. Both cities are located in the state of Anzoátegui. 

In the states of Carabobo and Vargas, great changes are under way as well. Venezuela's two largest commercial sea ports are located here, facing the Caribbean Sea. 

The port of Puerto Cabello, Carabobo, was built on 184 hectares with 32 mooring posts and a silo capacity of 120.000 tonnes. The port of La Guaira, Vargas, is smaller: 88 hectares, 26 mooring posts, and a silo capacity of 13.000 tonnes. 

By 2014, both sea ports shall be completely modernized. The Chávez administration allocated 600 million USD for the construction of new terminals, the Venezuelan Minister of Water and Air Transport, Elsa Gutiérrez Graffe, reported.

In August 2012, the first Mercosur shipment left Puerto Cabello, destined to Brasil and Uruguay. The ship, "José Leonardo Chirinos," owned by the Venezuelan Corporation of Navigation (Venavega), left from mooring post number 24, loaded with 6.200 tonnes of aluminium vessels and 244 tonnes of window glass, for Suape and Vitoria in Brasil. 

The aluminum vessels, fabricated by the firm Alentuy in Barquisimieto, State of Lara, are to be used for alimentation, cosmetics and pharmaceuticals. 

The ship also transported 14.000 tonnes of urea, produced in the petro-chemical plant of Venezuela (Pequivén), and 55.000 liters of Glysofan fertilizer, made by the state company Agropatria. This cargo was sent to Uruguay.

In the State of Miranda, two factories were recently enlarged:

The sugar packeting firm Mampote in Plaza received a second production line. The Mampote factory had been inaugurated in July 2010, with just one production line. It now has a packing capacity of 100 tonnes per day, the Venezuelan Minister of Alimentation, Carlos Osoro, pointed out. 

Mampote sugar is sold in the government-owned supermarket chains "Bicentenario" and "Mercal."  Customers can buy it with a discount of 10 to 15 percent. The refined sugar comes from the national sugar centers which are under control of the Bolivarian Government. 

The pharmaceutical firm Orpin Farma in Guarenas was nationalized in 2011, and recently started to produce liquids for hemodialysis, a method used to achieve extra-corporeal removal of waste products, such as creatinine and urea, in order to free water from the blood, when the kidneys are in a state of failure. Hemodialysis is a renal replacement therapy.

The Venezuelan Minister of Science and Technology, Jorge Arreaza, inspected Orpin Farma, from where 10.553 units of the solution for hemodialysis will be delivered to the Venezuelan Institute of Social Security (IVSS). Venezolana de Telivisión reported that the production line was certified by sanitary control of the Ministry for Health. 

As far as the hub of agriculture in the Llanos and Andes is concerned, it is receiving financial aid from the Bolivarian Government as well, to give impulses for innovation. President Chávez granted 16 million bolivares to augment the production of aloe in the state of Portuguesa, and cachama (Colossoma macropomum), a local species of fresh water fish, in the state of Barinas. 

Adán Chávez, the Governor of Barinas, who is the President's elder brother, and Jorge Arreaza, Minister for Science and Technology, spoke about the urgent need for innovation in a program of Venezolana de Televisión.

More electricity is required in this westernmost region of Venezuela. At the end of August 2012, a new electrical power station of 72 megawatts was inaugurated in the Andes state of Mérida. Argénis Chávez, president oft he National Electrical Corporation (Corpoelec), indicated that one more power station, located in San Agatón, will start working in October, generating 150 megawatts. With Chinese help and technology, a third power station is currently being built in Alberto Adriani, to generate 470 megawatts. 

A positive trend, as stated by the internet marketing research firm Comscore, is Venezuela's increasing use of the internet. Alex Castro, the director of Comscore, explained that between April 2011 and April 2012, the number of Venezuelans surfing the internet grew by 62 percent, followed by India with 34 percent and Indonesia with 32 percent. 

Previously marginalized communities in Venezuela now have access to the internet, due to such measures of the Bolivarian Government as introducing Infocentros (free internet cafés) and giving Canaima computers to elementary schools. 

The Infocentros network operates 700 centers in low income and rural areas of Venezuela. In recognition of its role in providing access to modern information technology on a broad basis, the Infocentros initiative received a prize from UNESCO. 

The Canaima computer program for elementary schools was introduced in 2009. Since then, the Bolivarian Government has provided over two million Canaima laptops to elementary schools in the entire Venezuelan territory.   

One more feat is Venezuela's rise to first position in Latin America for reducing inequality of social classes. A new UN-Habitat study shows that Venezuela is the Latin American country of least inequality between rich and poor, followed by Uruguay. The 196-pages-report was presented in Rio de Janeiro, Brasil. Its statistics are based on the Gini index. Venezuela received the excellent index of 0,41 - thanks to the social programs initiated by the Chávez Government over the past 13 years. 

Last but not least, Venezuela's inflation rate has reached a one-digit-low. The accumulated inflation for January to July 2012 stood at 8.6 percent, down from 16 percent during the same period in 2011. 

Nelson Merentes, president of the Central Bank of Venezuela, informed that, "a one-digit inflation rate has not been reported since 1986."  He continued that the country's "economic panorama" with low unemployment and sustained economic growth of 5.6 percent in the first quarter of 2012 was a positive trend for the rest of this year. 

Elias Eljuri, president of the National Institute of Statistics, shares the banker's opinion. He also sees the inflation rate further decreasing, due to Venezuela's expanding productivity, greater availability of goods as well as services, and the socialist government's continuous fight against speculation.    

To round up this report, here are a few more interesting statistical facts about Venezuela: According to the 2011 Census, 28.946.101 people live in Venezuela, the most populated states being Miranda and Zulia. 

The percentage of Venezuelans born in the country is 96, with 4 percent outside. About 725.000 people are of indigenous origin, about 181.000 are afro-descendents. Venezuela is a young nation. 40.3 percent of all Venezuelans are under 15 years.

Whether young or old, afro-descendent, indigenous, mestizo or white, a bright future is waiting for them. The Venezuelans are blessed with Hugo Chávez as President of the Bolivarian Republic, a gift they will surely remunerate by voting accordingly on the 7th of October.  

Prepared for publication by:

Lisa Karpova

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Author`s name Timothy Bancroft-Hinchey