Chávez and His People
Greg Grandin’s “Chávez: Why Venezuelans Loved Him” [April 1] prompted this reflection. Revolutions are imperfect social and economic events led by imperfect people. Venezuela’s revolution and the late Hugo Chávez fit that bill. But I recall a former student, an upper-middle-class Venezuelan, who had a telling reply when I asked her why she hated Chávez. “It’s because after the revolution you would see people in restaurants, dark people, who would have never been there before.” I had my answer.
Greg Grandin’s article deserves national recognition because it kills the journalistic Hugo Chávez stereotypes. See venezuelanalysis.com/analysis/8064.
GUILMO BARRIO, a proud subscriber
Bust the Banks Back to the Stone Age!
William Greider, in “Bank Buster Brown” [April 1], describes how a handful of banks now control 63 percent of our GNP. I wonder how obscene these numbers have to get before people begin connecting the dots on the bigger corporate game plan. When Grover Norquist said the ultra-right’s goal is to “shrink government down to a size sufficient to drown it in a bathtub,” no one seemed to recognize this as the mission statement of corporate America.
‘No Child’ Heads South of the Border
Thanks to David Bacon for “US-Style School Reform Goes South” [April 1], his comprehensive report on the Mexican government’s recent passage of a program that mimics many of the flawed provisions of “No Child Left Behind.” Basing teacher hiring, raises and benefits on standardized test scores is a familiar theme. Also familiar are the education establishment’s tactics for squashing resistance. In Mexico, they have a powerful lobbyist, Claudio Gonzalez, who calls teachers “tyrants.” He must be using the playbook of George W. Bush’s education secretary, Rod Paige, who called the National Education Association a “terrorist organization.” We need more reports like this to shine light on the move to privatize and profit from public education.
GLORIA C. ENDRES
New York City
David Bacon ties the Mexican film ¡De Panzazo! (“Barely Passing”) to the US film Waiting for Superman as evidence of “the corporate offensive to gain control of the country’s schools.” But ¡De Panzazo! encouraged Mexican voters, in an election year, to ask candidates how they would improve schools. Despite having the eleventh-largest economy in the world, Mexico spends more on education and achieves less than its neighbors. Mexico’s National Union of Education Workers (SNTE) has total control over teachers, strangling education. Only SNTE may license, hire, fire or promote teachers, rewarding friends, punishing reformers. More than 90 percent of the money spent on education goes to teachers’ salaries, which SNTE negotiates annually, but no one can detail where the money really goes. “No-show” jobs may number in the thousands, and teaching licenses are bought and sold. SNTE’s leader was recently arrested for embezzlement. Unionism is not at fault; it is the SNTE.