'Chavista' school books stoke passions in Venezuela

Mon Jun 2, 2014 12:17pm EDT
 
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By Diego Ore

CARACAS (Reuters) - Venezuela's government has published dozens of new textbooks that glorify late president Hugo Chavez and belittle his adversaries, infuriating opposition critics who call them part of a campaign to indoctrinate school children.

Originally introduced in mid-2011, the textbooks have become a hot-button issue again amid a broad state-run review of the education system that some fear could boost the ruling Socialist Party's imprint on classrooms.

"The government has made great efforts to redefine historic events with an ideological bent, and these books represent that intention," said Juan Maragall, education secretary in the opposition-run state of Miranda. "Teachers are concerned."

The books describe Chavez as the man who liberated Venezuela from tyranny, at times making him appear more important than 19th century founding father Simon Bolivar. Ironically, Bolivar was the inspiration for Chavez's self-styled socialist revolution.

The books present a 2002 coup that briefly toppled Chavez as an insurrection planned by Washington while playing down the role of massive opposition protests in this deeply divided country.

And they are generally dismissive of the traditional political parties that are the forebears of today's opposition movement, using the two administrations that preceded Chavez in power as examples to define the term "in decline."

State officials argue the textbooks foment out-of-the-box thinking and critical questioning of the U.S.-led capitalist world order. They insist the bigger issue is the increase in the number of children in school while Chavez was in office.

The government has distributed 42 million copies of the textbooks that make up the "Bicentennial Collection," named in honor of Venezuela's two centuries of independence.   Continued...

 
Children read state-issued textbooks from the "Bicentennial Collection"  at a classroom of the Eleazar Lopez Contreras school in Caracas May 23, 2014. Venezuela's government has published dozens of new textbooks that glorify late president Hugo Chavez and belittle his adversaries, infuriating opposition critics who call them part of a campaign to indoctrinate school children. REUTERS/Carlos Garcia Rawlins