Friday, March 8, 2013

Well, Hugo, You Will Be Missed

Hugo Chavez is being remembered in many ways.  The fiery Venezuelan leader wasn't afraid to antagonize the United States, which endeared him to many Latin Americans, but also made him a favorite villain in the American media.  Perhaps his greatest show of defiance was at a 2006 UN assembly meeting in which he openly castigated the Bush administration, and held up Noam Chomsky's Hegemony or Survival as a must read for anyone who wanted to understand the United States' role in shaping the global order.  But, even Chomsky had strong words on the nature of his regime in Venezuela, calling it an "assault" on democracy.  That's the problem with befriending Libertarians, you never know when one will turn against you.

But, like him or not, Chavez brought much needed reforms to Venezuela and definitely made it a better place to live for the 98 per cent.  He held his office for 6 terms, although his opposition argued over the fairness of these elections.  Of course, his opposition wasn't one for playing by the rules either, and many felt that Bush gave his tacit support to a coup attempt in 2002.  Chavez had only been in power for three years at that point, but it was enough for the "pro-business elites," represented by the Venezuela Chamber of Commerce.  As a result of their failed attempt, they were forced to endure 11 more years of Chavez, as the action cemented in many Venezuelans' minds that Chavez was their man.

Chavez was just the latest and most outspoken thorn in America's side in its Pan-American relations.  He was seen as heir-apparent to Fidel Castro, whose health deteriorated to the point that he abdicated his power to his brother in 2008. Chavez' steadfast resistance to US policies led to similar election victories for Evo Morales in Bolivia, Lula de Silva in Brazil and the conservatives' arch-nemesis Daniel Ortega in Nicaragua.  Neo-cons felt this was a direct result of Bush's neglect of Latin America, and he was roundly castigated for it.

President Obama had a chance to mend these bridges when he was elected in 2008, but other than one highly publicized Pan-American conference in 2009, which he attended, Obama has likewise shown little interest in the region, much to the chagrin of Latin American leaders who were hoping for better ties with the United States, notably Raul Castro in Cuba.  However, it does seem the State Department has maintained close contacts in Venezuela and is hoping for improved relations with the succeeding president, Nicolas Maduro, although by constitutional law Venezuela is required to hold new elections within 6 months.


  1. A student in one of my classes this semester is a native Venezuelan. Her take on Chavez is decidely different from yours. I guess it all depends on which side of the political divide you find yourself.

  2. Not only that -- it comes down to who benefits from the wealth of a country?

    As we saw here in the 19th century, and continue to experience now, when most of the benefits go to the top 1 or 2 %, there's not a lot left to go around to the rest.

    One would think there could be a happy medium out there, but the top doesn't share its control of resources willingly. (And we sure are getting a lot of negative press here with his death to be sure we get the message.)

  3. I tried not to say whether he was bad or good. Chavez definitely overstepped his bounds, but at the same time, there is no doubt that his "reforms" benefited a great number of Venezuelans who had very little before.

  4. The picture is because he modeled himself after Bolivar.

    1. Right wingers attack Chavez and call him a "despot". Yet, he got majority support in his country, was one of the most admired leaders in the world, and gave free oil to poor Americans.

      Small wonder why the right wing delusionals hated him so much.

  5. Immortalized,

  6. Interesting criticism from the drugged up and delusional far right - they say Chavez stole $2 billion from his people. But, as I point out, CITGO is incorporated under the laws of Delaware which means its profits/losses and all finances are under the watchful eye of the IRS. That agency (one in which I worked for many years) has audited that group but has yet to ascertain where this number came from. If it could prove Chavez stole $2B the Feds could employ the RICO statute against him as it did with Panama's dictator Noriega. But in all this time it never happened. Why? Because the drugged up and delusional right wingers made up the story.

  7. ''Chavez heir Maduro wins Venezuela presidential election''

    Critics immediately pointed to the low percentage margin of victory.

    Hell, let's remember that at least he got the majority vote unlike Bush.

  8. The opposition candidate didn't look very gracious in defeat. He and his party looked like the Republicans refusing to accept the results of the elections, after being so sure they would win.


  9. Hell, let's remember that at least he got the majority vote unlike Bush....

    ....and there are some that question the electoral college votes.

  10. Boston Globe has some pretty horrific updates on what is going on there.