The Nov. 23 election in Venezuela to choose hundreds of regional and local officials is an important one. Since 1999, the country has been in a tug-of-war between the governmentís attempt to implement sweeping social programs and the oppositionís resistance to those reforms.
I visited Venezuela on a mission awareness trip last May. Most Americans would be hard-pressed to recite any facts about the country aside from knowing its president, Hugo Chavez.
Crime is on the rise
Venezuela has the highest minimum wage in Latin America ($370 a month), relatively stable unemployment and gasoline that costs 15 to 20 cents a gallon. But Venezuelans face many challengesórising inflation and escalating crime, to name two.
ìChildren bring guns and knives to school,î said Isabel Alvarez, a former project coordinator for CFCAís Barquisimeto project. ìPeople will kill for a Razor phone.î
Sponsorship helps provide security
ìRobbers will take blenders, toasters, anything they can find, and sell them for money,î said Teresa, a CFCA mother whose 19-year-old daughter, Leidy, has been sponsored for 18 years.
I chatted with Leidy and Teresa in their modest, stucco home with cement floors situated in a high-crime neighborhood of Barquisimeto. Over the years, sponsorship has paid for improvements, such as a heavy, metal door, to secure the home from intruders.
Sponsorship supplements the income Teresa earns working six days a week at a pediatric hospital. She is scheduled to work every other month so the hospital wonít have to pay her health benefits, she said. Her husband fixes cars.
Leidy studies information technology and wants to work as a programmer after she graduates next year. She is so petite, I mistook her for a young girl of about 13 rather than a young lady of 19, but she is poised and mature.
This hard-working family exemplifies many of the families I met during my trip. I pray for peaceful and fair elections Nov. 23, and that Teresa, Leidy and all Venezuelans may work together for safe communities and a prosperous future.