UPDATE: I did a CNN iReport as soon as I heard about President Chavez’s death because I knew the demonization was going to start. The CNN iReport I did is here.
I am compelled to add to the story. I received hate emails from Venezuelans in England and here in the United States as well as from Americans who simply think I am naïve. I knew they would come. I have a delete button and make good use of it.
That said, many of the Venezuelans over here and in England had the opportunity and resources to leave when they believed their way of life would change. I was listening to NPR this morning and a Venezuelan said paraphrased “Before Chavez Venezuela was a rich country. Everything was great”. I believe that is what she believed. However the vast majority of Venezuelans as well as Latin Americans all over this hemisphere are poor. I know first hand as I am from Latin America and I go back fairly often.
To those in the Plutocracy or in favor with the Plutocracy, those masses are invisible. They are just a cheap resource. It is that that created Hugo Chavez in Venezuela, Rafael Vicente Correa Delgado in Ecuador, Evo Morales in Bolivia, Cristina Fernández de Kirchner in Argentina, and Dilma Vana Rousseff in Brazil (as well as Brazil’s previous president Luis Lula Da Silva).
The fundamental misunderstanding of what is occurring in Latin America could be a fatal flaw in America. The income/wealth disparity in America that continues especially with continued supply side policies and a tax system biased in favor of the rich (work income taxed at higher rate than investment income), makes what occurred in Venezuela possible in America. That is the fear the American Plutocracy has with President Obama. He is a likeable and charismatic figure. Will he make a populist switch? It is unlikely because inasmuch as populism is in his DNA, he rather a “soft landing”. It is in the interest of the Republicans and the Right Wing to start looking at the reality of a declining middle class. Humans behave in the same manner all over the world given similar circumstances.
The American corporate controlled media do not broadcast the big changes occurring by the masses throughout the region as they do not want it to be a catalyst here in the US. They attempt to demonize those overseas that are in fact fighting to share the spoils of the natural resources of these countries with their rightful owners, the citizens.
Hugo Chavez died today. May he rest in peace. He saved the lives of thousands of Venezuela’s poor. He provided healthcare to those that could not afford it. He did much of what Christians deemed the good book; the Holy Bible commands them to do. He sheltered the poor by building housing. He fed the hungry by attempting to build a strong social safety net that was never there. He provided seed for the poor to begin a path to self-sufficiency.
President Hugo Chavez was that Latin American guy, that ethnic guy that had the gall to break the back of the Venezuelan Plutocracy. Just like in the United States where every middle class and poor centric policy move by this American President is fought to the nail by the maintainers of the American Plutocracy, so was the Plight of Hugo Chavez, not only from the Venezuelan Plutocracy, but the world’s Plutocracy. It is for this reason that he only found refuge in the Cuban, Russian, & Iranian regimes; not for love of them but for strength in numbers.
Just as American major corporations have sit on billions of dollars instead of patriotically investing it in America in the attempt to cripple President Obama’s Presidency, so did the businesses in Venezuela as they attempted to paralyze the country economically.
Hugo Chavez will be caricatured for his clownish antics. The misrepresentation of the hero of the poor in Venezuela will begin. Bloomberg Business week attempts to show some balance on the day of his death. Their article “Hugo Chávez, R.I.P.: He Empowered the Poor and Gutted Venezuela” correctly describes the biggest truth about Hugo Chavez but perpetuates the mischaracterizations of what really ailed his governance.
Chávez’s most enduring and positive legacy is his shattering of Venezuela’s peaceful coexistence with poverty, inequality, and social exclusion. He was not the first political leader who placed the poor at the center of the national conversation. Nor was he the first to use a spike in oil revenue to help the poor. But none of his predecessors did it so aggressively and with such a passionate sense of urgency as Chávez did. And no one was more successful in planting this priority into the nation’s psyche and even exporting it to neighboring countries and beyond. Moreover, his ability to make the poor feel that one of them was in charge has no precedent.
Another positive aspect of his legacy is that he ended the widespread political indifference and apathy nurtured over decades by a system dominated by decaying and out-of-touch political parties. The political awakening of the nation sparked by Chávez has engulfed people in the barrios, workers, university students, the middle class, and, unfortunately, even the military. And here is where Chávez’s negative legacy begins.
The above of course was followed by the bad.
Yet, as Scott Mainwaring, a respected U.S. academic has noted, democracy requires “free and fair elections for the executive and legislature, nearly universal adult enfranchisement in the contemporary period, the protection of political rights and civil liberties, and civilian control of the military. The Chávez regime falls far short on the first and third of these defining characteristics of democracy. The electoral playing field is highly skewed, and respect for opposition rights has eroded seriously. The military is much more politicized and more involved in politics than it was before Chávez.” —
— In fact, President Chávez was a pioneer and one of the most adroit practitioners of a political strategy that became common after the Cold War in many countries that political scientists call competitive authoritarian regimes.
–The other paradoxical—and bad—legacy of Hugo Chávez is an economy in shambles. It is paradoxical because his term in office coincided with a boom in commodity prices and the presence of an international financial system flush with cash and willing to lend to countries like Venezuela.
— The Bolivarian bourgeoisie—the boliburgueses, as Venezuelans call the new oligarchy formed by close allies of the regime’s leaders, their families, and friends—have amassed enormous wealth through corrupt deals with the government. This, too, is part of the unfortunate legacy Chávez has left.
What the article does not state is that Venezuela was sabotaged by the business class and it was for that reason that the economy suffered. What the article does not state is that inasmuch as all the Venezuelan independent media completely caricatured the man with racial epithets, with continuous attacks on his presidency, and his policies of helping the poor, the people were always out in the streets to support him. What the article fails to state is that every government has corruption. One does not have to leave the shores of the United States to see the billions of American taxpayer dollars being robbed by private and public corruption.
Hugo Chavez attempted a coup to overthrow the previous president, Carlos Andres Perez in 1992 because of the massacre he effected on his own people and massive government corruption. It was unsuccessful and Chavez was jailed. Perez was subsequently impeached in 1993 for embezzlement. Chavez was elected democratically in 1998 and have been subsequently re-elected till his death.
One cannot understand the real political dynamics in Latin America through the lens of American main stream media. They are governed by entities that fear providing accurate coverage of successful democratic takeover of the any country’s government by the masses as it could be a local template. Oliver Stone’s “South Of The Border” is a documentary that gives a superficial understanding on the Latin American plight. It is sufficiently informative. However, Naomi Klein’s “The Shock Doctrine” illustrates in much more detail the pain that was inflicted on these countries.
No one knows how Venezuela will transition. Will they continue with a model that provides the poor access to the middle class and beyond or will they return to an oligarchical model?
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Copyright 2013 Egberto Willies