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Hugo Chavez R.I.P.

Sad news about Chavez. One gets the impression that he was a genuinely good man with a desire to alleviate poverty in his country. Probably South America is the continent where democratic socialism has worked out and has endured best.

However like the Sandinistas in Nicaragua and other socialist movements in the region, Chavez whilst dismantling all the old bastions of corruption and self-interest in Venezuela managed to construct a government and nationalised oil industry riven with er…self interest and corruption.

It’s the problem with good altruistic people. They start out well but get distracted by human nature.

Having said that, he probably did just about as well as he could have in the circumstances, and I don’t think any of our politicians will elicit such widespread grief when they go.

PS I wonder if this is an American spell checker I have here. It just suggested ‘Satanist’ for Sandinistas


6 Responses

  1. Those seeking to use the death of President Hugo Chavez to bring into question the progressive legacy of his government seem to be struggling to answer two key points.

    First, why did the people of Venezuela elect him and his coalition of supporters time and time again in free and fair elections?

    Second, why did all elements of the left in Latin America from Lula’s Workers Party in Brazil through to Evo Morales of Bolivia hail Chavez and Venezuela as an inspiration?

    The answer is simple. Against those who claimed “history was dead,” he emerged at the turn of the century as the first elected president to challenge the austerity which had devastated Latin America.

    The current crisis in Europe pales by comparison with the devastation wrought in Venezuela. From 1980 there were more than 20 years of falling incomes. GDP per head fell one third. By the mid-1990s, the crisis had left 70 per cent of the population in poverty. One in three Venezuelans lived on less than $2 per day.

    By the time Chavez was first elected in 1998 the majority of Venezuelans were poorer than they had been in 1960.

    A great achievement of Chavez’s presidency was to reverse this decline and dramatically improve the lives of the overwhelming majority.

    From the five million people lifted out of poverty, to the children receiving free school meals, to the 250,000 social houses built last year, ordinary Venezuelans’ living standards increased immeasurably.

    There is no need to fear democracy when you are delivering for the overwhelming majority.

    That’s why last October’s presidential election was Venezuela’s 15th set of national elections since Chavez became president – more than in the 40 years prior to his election.

    To those who imply, but never quite dare say, that Chavez only won because of fraud or even threats to the opposition, the rebuttal of former US president Jimmy Carter is the most powerful.

    He described the election process in Venezuela as “the best in the world” and said that Chavez has always won “fairly and squarely.”

    Contrast this with the two decades before, when thousands of people who protested against austerity were assassinated and disappeared.

    In 1989 a bloody massacre by state forces led to an estimated 3,000 dead. No such cases occurred in Chavez’s Venezuela.

    This rejection of neoliberalism is in contrast with the failed model of austerity that has sparked the labour movement’s increased interest in the progressive changes underway in Latin America. Venezuela is at the forefront of these changes and this is recognised in Latin America itself.

    Lula, the former Brazilian president, best summed this up last year, explaining: “Progressive governments are changing the face of Latin America.

    “Thanks to them, our continent is developing rapidly, with economic growth, job creation, redistribution of wealth and social inclusion. Today, we are an international reference point for a successful alternative to neoliberalism.”

    He added of Venezuela: “With Chavez’s leadership, the Venezuelan people has made extraordinary gains.

    “The popular classes have never ever been treated with such respect, love and dignity. Those conquests must be preserved and strengthened.”

    In short, support for Venezuela and for the wider progressive changes in Latin America are one and the same.

    All progressives around the world should echo Lula’s words and celebrate Chavez’s progressive legacy.

    He put the idea of 21st century socialism, based on democracy and social progress, well and truly on the global political agenda.

  2. Perhaps, in addition to your spell checker knowing the correct spelling of “Sandinistas,” it was objecting to your placing them in Chile instead of Nicaragua.


  3. He really hated us Americans-well our leaders…..I loved Ecuador and I hope to visit All of South America some day…R.I.P. Chavez

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