8 May 2002


Press Briefing


At a Headquarters press conference held in conjunction with the General Assembly special session on children, Venezuela’s Minister for Foreign Affairs, Luis Alfonso Davila, and the Minister for Education, Aristobolo Izturiz briefed correspondents on their Government's policies and actions geared to children and adolescents.

The Minister for Foreign Affairs said that from 1990 to 1998, the Venezuelan Government's activities had been directed towards social assistance and, as a consequence, an increase in the areas of health and education, among other things. President Chavez's Government had, since 1998, added a focus on human development of the population.  Specific measures had been taken in the area of social services, the health sector, social security, housing and food security.  Venezuela had also established a National Council to develop a strategic plan of action for a policy directed at children and adolescents.  A strategic information service would monitor that plan.

He said that at the Conference for Financing for Development in Monterrey, Mexico, Venezuela had proposed a "Humanitarian Fund" that could be financed from a percentage of the foreign debt of heavily indebted developing countries and from resources freed by a significant decrease in defence expenditures.  On behalf of the "Group of 77" developing countries, Venezuela would present that proposal again, in order to have a decision taken on it.

In addition, he announced that Venezuela's 180-member strong Youth Symphony Orchestra would perform at the special session's gala festivities tomorrow.

The Minister for Education, Mr. Izturiz, said his country had made primary education a basic priority.  In three years' time, 1 million children should be enrolled in pre-school.  This year's goal was to enroll 300,000 children.  Schools in his country had only one daytime period.  One of the goals was to have two-shift schools, where children would also receive comprehensive assistance, such as lunches, as well as physical and cultural education.  Thus far, 2,250 schools were operating on a full-time basis.  This year, 750 schools would be added.  Another key element in his country's strategy concerned rural education, with a focus on technical and agricultural vocational education.  Primary education was essential, because without access for all children to the educational system, democratic education was not possible, he said.

Answering correspondents' questions, all relating to the coup in his country on 11,12 and 13 April, Mr. Davila, thanking the international press for assistance provided to Venezuela during those days, said his Government had had talks with the United States State Department on several occasions.  After the government had been restored to power, he had spoken with advisers to President George W. Bush.

As a result of the event, President Chavez had had to cancel his attendance at the special session.  Among actions he had taken to address the situation had been the establishment of a Federal Council, which would explore ways of

addressing the country's problems, in cooperation with local authorities.  There was also a national dialogue.  The Venezuela Congress was setting up a truth commission to investigate the events.

He said some 200,000 people had been opposed to the constitutional process established by the referendum in 1999.  Some of those had been bent on hampering that process through what could be called a conspiracy, culminating in the

11 April event, which was totally contrary to democracy, the rule of law and principles of human rights.  However, the people of Venezuela had gone out into the streets to restore the legitimate government to power.  All Latin American countries, the Rio Group and the Organization of American States had risen up to protest the coup.

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For information media. Not an official record.