Challenging the neoliberal trend: The Venezuelan health care reform alternative

Carles Muntaner, René M.Guerra Salazar, Sergio Rueda, Francisco Armada

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

25 Citations (Scopus)


Throughout the 1990s, all Latin American countries but Cuba implemented to varying degrees health care sector reforms underpinned by a neoliberal paradigm that redefined health care as less of a social right and more of a market commodity. These health care sector reforms were couched in the broader structural adjustment of Latin American welfare states prescribed consistently by international financial institutions since the mid-1980s. However, since 2003, Venezuela has been developing an alternative to this neoliberal trend through its health care reform program called Misión Barrio Adentro (Inside the Neighbourhood). In this article, we introduce Misión Barrio Adentro in its historical, political, and economic contexts. We begin by analyzing Latin American neoliberal health sector reforms in their political economic context, with a focus on Venezuela. The analysis reveals that the major beneficiaries of both broader structural adjustment of Latin American welfare states and neoliberal health reforms have been transnational capital interests and domestic Latin American elites. We then provide a detailed description of Misión Barrio Adentro as a challenge to neoliberalism in health care in its political economic context, noting the role played in its development by popular resistance to neoliberalism and the unique international cooperation model upon which it is based. Finally, we suggest that the Venezuelan experience may offer valuable lessons not only to other low- to middle-income countries, but also to countries such as Canada.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1-19-1-24
JournalCanadian Journal of Public Health
Issue number6
Publication statusPublished - 2006 Nov


  • Barrio Adentro
  • Health care reform
  • Health policy
  • Latin America
  • Venezuela

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Public Health, Environmental and Occupational Health


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