Eliminating illiteracy was considered a high priority for the government of Hugo Chavez.
Nine years ago on October 28, 2005, after 1,482,000 adults had learned to read and write in the previous two years and with less than two percent of the population illiterate, Venezuela was declared “Territory Free of Illiteracy” and was affirmed as such by UNESCO.
Eradicating illiteracy was identified as a priority of the Bolivarian Revolution as a means of facilitating the participation of the people in the unfolding political process. Literacy was understood to be a fundamental component of a participatory democracy, the type currently being developed in Venezuela.
The Venezuelan illiteracy eradication program, known as Mission Robinson, was modeled on the successful Cuban experience with their program known as “Yes I Can” designed by Leonela Realy. In order to go throughout the country and implement the literacy program, 129,000 Venezuelans received training .
The program worked to ensure all could participate, from those who had vision or hearing impediments, to people in prison. 70,000 indigenous people were also taught to read and write in both Spanish and their indigenous languages. Participants were given incentives in order to facilitate the participation of low-income people who might otherwise not be able to afford to take part.
Koichiro Matsuura, then Director-General of UNESCO, wrote in a letter to the government “The achievements realized by Mission Robinson would not have been possible without the political will and support from the highest levels, and in light of that President Hugo Chavez Frias deserves the warmest congratulations.”