CARACAS – Opposition presidential candidate Henrique Capriles vowed Friday, on behalf of the more than 3 million unschooled Venezuelan children, to make education one of the banner issues of his government if he wins the Oct. 7 election.
“I’m not going to put my picture in the universities, nor am I going to force anyone to take part in marches,” Capriles said at a campaign rally with teachers in the central state of Miranda, where he was governor.
Capriles said that 800,000 young people between ages 12 and 17 are outside the educational system, and stressed that this figure is “directly related” to the nation’s high crime rate.
The 40-year-old attorney hoping to unseat leftist President Hugo Chavez offered an array of figures about the classroom situation, saying that only three out of every 10 children go to preschool and that 200,000 children have nowhere to continue their studies once they finish primary school.
Capriles said that if elected, he will build 900 preschools, 40 university campuses and 1,000 high schools, creating 81,000 new jobs in the process.
“What is more liberating and transforming than education? That is my calling card. I’ve been a governor focused on education, and also as president (I will be) focused on education,” he said.
He also noted that he does not want “education that teaches an ideology” but that forms “people to be critical thinkers.”
Capriles again mentioned the government’s “dirty war” and said, referring to Chavez who took office in 1999, that “when a person has been in power for many years and has nothing more to offer, he begins to try and discredit the other, he tries to tarnish the other.”
Almost 19 million Venezuelans will elect the president who will lead the country from 2013 to 2019, with Chavez and Capriles as favorites on a list of candidates with four other independent hopefuls. EFE