Venezuelan vision: cooperate, participate, innovate
In the recent editorial entitled Brazil's innovation law: lessons for Latin America, the claim that Brazil's innovation law is the first of its kind in Latin America* fails to take into account similar Venezuelan policies that have been in place since at least 2001.
The Venezuelan programmes are funded through PDVSA, the nationalised oil company, which has an in-house innovative development branch.
Venezuela has already begun to resolve some of the conflict between private business interests and social needs. One strategy has been to stipulate that businesses be organised as cooperatives prior to applying or qualifying for government loans and technical support.
Training in skills and cooperative organisational procedure are offered through government-sponsored PDVSA programmes — known as misiónes.
Unfortunately, many of the university faculty and graduates who enjoyed the privileges of 'expert' status prior to the change of government have now dismissed the joint development projects and have opted to stop working or to work outside the country instead.
Thousands of Cuban doctors are working in Venezuela to fill the gap left by those uninterested in the new government's development policy.
Emigration has not typically been part of the Venezuelan experience but is now a given for many graduates and 'experts' who underestimate or sneer at the new development policies.
However, the current government has put in place a network of Public Bolivarian Universities and National Experimental Universities that are training graduates to participate in public-private enterprise projects.
These institutions are mostly free, offer degrees in development and technical areas that emphasise practical applications, require a significant community service component that includes collaboration with and participation of local people and organisations, and are located in needy neighbourhoods.
Why is this labelled socialism in Venezuela and touted as innovative development policy in Brazil?*The first version of this article mistakenly described Brazil's innovation policy as the 'first' in Latin America. This has now been corrected – see Brazil's innovation law: lessons for Latin America.