CARACAS, Venezuela — Carolys Perez came to tears when the World asked her about the changes taking place within Venezuelan society, the Bolivarian Revolution and its leader, Hugo Chavez.

The World spoke with Perez during the 16th World Festival of Youth and Students, which brought together 17,000 youth from over 130 countries to struggle for peace and solidarity.

Perez, 28, a leader of the Francisco Miranda Organization (FMO), an organization of youth in the Miranda municipality, which develops leadership and encourages community residents to continue and expand their education and engage in the “Bolivarian” process, is also a teacher, mission (social service) volunteer and member of the Venezuelan Communist Party (PCV).

Perez gave the World a short history of the PCV and President Chavez’s election. She said the PCV was 74 years old, that it had been an underground organization at times, especially during the ’60s when many of its leaders and members were assassinated.

During the ’80s and ’90s, “economic methods to further oppress the people were instituted. Poverty sank [people] lower and lower,” she said. The former president “took the peoples’ human rights away. He let the police do what ever they wanted. They would run into peoples’ houses, grab their children, family members and make examples of them.”

After only being in office one month, protesters began to call for the former president’s removal. One protest lasted five days. Afterward, “leaders of the movement were murdered, including party members.”

Chavez stood up to the president, she said. He helped build and lead an uprising in 1992, but was captured and thrown in jail. Eventually that president was removed. Chavez was released and “Chavez stayed with the community, with the people,” said Perez. “He understood that the path to victory wasn’t a violent path.” And in 1998, Chavez won the presidential elections with 4 million votes.

On the night of the elections, “we stayed up all night waiting for the results. The whole country celebrated when Chavez won. The poorest came from all over just to see Chavez.” According to Perez, “the people chose a new political leadership and direction.”

“Rich people,” said Perez, “who control the private communications, tried to make Chavez look bad. Business interests, especially oil interests, tried to sabotage the economy.” Then the coup took place. Chavez was kidnapped. “There was no gas for the houses, no way to stay warm. People were burning their furniture to stay warm.

“Everybody was looking for Chavez,” said Perez. “The party used its underground networks to hide and protect other leaders of the revolution.”

Then Chavez was found. As Perez spoke her eyes filled with tears. She became animated and warm. “He apologized to the people,” she said. “He was sorry for what we went through. And he promised he would never abandon us!”

Most recently, she said, the PCV helped the left-wing electoral coalition beat back the recall referendum initiated by “private, big-business interests.” Out of 10 million votes cast, Chavez got 6 million. “The PCV is growing,” Perez said. “It is accepted by the government. There is no more reason to hide.”

Perez also told the World about her experiences as a educator in the missions. She said, “before there was nothing, now every class has a computer, Internet, television and books. The buildings have been upgraded. We have more rooms. We also have a mess hall for the community. We bring people food while providing political education.”

She said the missions “organize schools, students, into political formations. We educate the youth and explain the goals of the revolution.”

The World asked Perez what she thought of George W. Bush. “I see President Bush as an assassin, a terrorist. He is taking advantage of his power. Instead of improving the lives of the people, he is hurting them.”

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