Encircling Empire: Report #20—The Chávez Years

Posted on March 22, 2013 by


encirclingempire2013b

This report’s focus is on Hugo Chávez Frías, featuring appreciations and understandings of his political work, the accomplishments achieved during his time in government, archival documents and archived speeches and writings by President Chávez, videos, and news reports. Emphasis is placed here on items that are freely available on the Internet, rather than books and journal articles.


(When links expire–and they certainly will in many cases–either use the full title of each item, inside quotation marks, and use that as a search term, or use the expired URL and use http://archive.org/web/web.php to do a search in its Wayback Machine.)

This and previous issues have been archived on a dedicated site—please see: ENCIRCLING EMPIRE.

For frequent updates, please “like” our Facebook page.


I will set the tone for this report with the following statement which I posted to Mensaje a Chávez:

El regalo revolucionario de Venezuela para todo el Mundo (Venezuela’s Gift to the World)

Hugo Chávez Frías has been the recognizable face of the global anti-imperialist movement, inspiring revolution when the elites said history had ended. Venezuela and Comandante Chávez instead made new history, in the face of neoliberal exploiters and interventionists, showing the rest of us outside Venezuela how much more we can and should do, besides resigning ourselves to occasional protests. Chávez’s anti-imperialism was consistent, coherent, and a powerful body of thought and practice that resisted intimidation and appropriation. Where the left has been vanquished, tamed, or misdirected in so many parts of the global North, Chávez was a reminder that we can draw fresh ideas from the answers provided by the South. I will always love Hugo Chávez, I will always miss him, he will never be forgotten. Thank you beloved Venezuela for your great gift to the world!

Hugo Chávez Frías ha sido la cara más reconocible del movimiento global antiimperialista, inspirando a la revolución cuando las élites dijo que la historia había terminado, y mostrándonos que una mejor globalización era posible. Venezuela y Comandante Chávez en vez hicieron historia nueva, en la cara de los explotadores neoliberales y los intervencionistas, que muestra a todos nosotros fuera de Venezuela cuánto más podemos y debemos hacer, además de resignarnos a las protestas ocasionales. Chávez era consistente contra el imperialismo, ofreciéndonos un coherente y un poderoso cuerpo de pensamiento y práctica que se resistió a la intimidación y la apropiación. Cuando la izquierda ha sido derrotada, domesticada, o mal dirigidas en tantas partes del Norte global, Chávez fue un recordatorio de que podemos sacar nuevas ideas a partir de las respuestas ofrecidas por el Sur. Siempre amaré a Hugo Chávez, siempre me hará falta, nunca será olvidado. Gracias querida Venezuela por su gran don para el mundo!


We do not need to look for the bronze or marble, because Chavez, the statesman and military figure who roars, laughs, sings and smiles, is sculpted in living flesh into the skins of all colors, in the hair of all textures, and in the bones of all the Venezuelans that he liberated“–Roy Chaderton, Ambassador of the Bolivarian Republic of Venezuela to the OAS


VIDEOS

Tributes to Hugo Chávez in International Organizations:

United Nations General Assembly, 67th plenary meeting, March 13, 2013 – The General Assembly pays tribute to the memory of His Excellency Hugo Chávez Frías, late President of the Bolivarian Republic of Venezuela. Following a minute of silence, there were special tributes by UN Secretary General Ban Ki-Moon, and representatives of the African group of nations, the Americas, the Group of 77, the Non-Aligned Movement, and others.

Organization of American States Permanent Council Pays Posthumous Tribute to President Hugo Chávez, March 15, 2013 - From the press release: “The Secretary General of the OAS, José Miguel Insulza, highlighted ‘the enormous demonstration of unity and solidarity that has been presented today at the organization to convey our condolences to the people and government of Venezuela on the death of their President, Hugo Chávez.’ Insulza, who attended the funeral of Chávez in Caracas last week, said it was ‘stirring to see the pain, sadness and strength of the Venezuelan people, shown in such a moving way in their farewell to their leader.’ The OAS leader recalled that he was present when Chávez first took office in 1999. ‘How can I forget when he said, looking at Congress: Gentlemen I am not the cause, I am the consequence. President Chávez thought he was there because of the failure of a system and a government that had administered the enormous wealth of a country for the benefit of a few, and he thought that wealth should be administered for the benefit of many. And no one denies that he did’.”

Electoral Campaign Videos:

The Evolution of Electoral Campaign Videos from the Presidential Elections won by Hugo Chávez (1998, 2006, 2012).

…and this rousing music video from the last campaign:

“Yo Soy Chávez” / I am Chávez

Recommended Documentaries:

Inside the Revolution: A Journey into the Heart of Venezuela
(Director Pablo Navarrete, 65mins, Alborada Films, 2009)
http://www.alborada.net/itr.film

The Revolution Will Not Be Televised–Chávez: Inside the Coup, is a 2003 documentary focusing on events in Venezuela leading up to and during the US backed April 2002 coup d’état attempt, which saw President Hugo Chávez removed from office for two days.

South of the Border (Oliver Stone, 2009): There’s a revolution underway in South America, but most of the world doesn’t know it. Oliver Stone sets out on a road trip across five countries to explore the social and political movements as well as the mainstream media’s misperception of South America while interviewing seven of its elected presidents. In casual conversations with Presidents Hugo Chávez (Venezuela), Evo Morales (Bolivia), Lula da Silva (Brazil), Cristina Kirchner (Argentina), as well as her husband and ex-President Nėstor Kirchner, Fernando Lugo (Paraguay), Rafael Correa (Ecuador), and Raúl Castro (Cuba), Stone gains unprecedented access and sheds new light upon the exciting transformations in the region (official website).

Hugo Chávez (Ligia Blanco, 2005)–excellent interviews with the key historical actors, and unique and striking footage. (Nonetheless, the narrative contains some inexplicably bizarre assertions, such as Venezuela having “little history,” or the country lacking a “political culture.”)

In addition, an Australian television documentary from 2002 provides some very interesting footage of encounters between the President and both his followers and opponents in the streets, at home and abroad–and that is about the sum total of its value. The narrative is simple, often predictable from a Western mainstream liberal perspective that tilted against Chávez, but thankfully it is also minimal. This version has subtitles, so English viewers will not be deprived of valuable information and statements that previous reviewers complained about. The documentary in question is No Ordinary President, in English or with English subtitles, and it runs for 35 minutes.

PHOTOS

En fotos: por octavo día consecutivo, venezolanos desfilan frente al féretro de Hugo Chávez (In photos: for the eighth consecutive day, Venezuelans file past the casket of Hugo Chávez), Noticias24, March 13, 2013.

En fotos: objetos de todo tipo adornados con la imagen de Chávez son vendidos en las calles de Caracas (In photos: objects of all kinds, adorned with the image of Chávez, are sold in the streets of Caracas), Noticias 24, March 13, 2013.

ARCHIVES

Hugo Chávez Speaks:

The Complete Collection of Articles and Speeches by Hugo Chávez Frías (From CubaDebate and Correo del Orinoco)–in Spanish, 946 pages, pdf, 10.9 mb

The Red Book (document of the United Socialist Party of Venezuela, PSUV):

Libro-RojoLibro Rojo: El Primer Congreso Extraordinario del Partido Socialista Unido de Venezuela (PSUV), culminó el 24 de abril de 2010 con la aprobación de los documentos que dan formal nacimiento al partido socialista: La Declaración de Principios, Los Estatutos y Las Bases Programáticas del Partido. Este histórico acontecimiento ocurre en el marco del desarrollo de un proceso revolucionario que tiene como protagonista al pueblo, con el Comandante Presidente Hugo Chávez a la cabeza, y que tiene como fin darle continuidad a la gesta emancipadora iniciada hace 200 años por nuestros Libertadores. Hoy como ayer todo militante socialista, todo venezolano y venezolana que ame esta Patria, tiene la obligación de combatir por la Libertad, la Soberanía, la Independencia y la Justicia social para el bienestar de nuestros pueblos. A 200 años del inicio de un proceso de emancipación todavía sin culminar, estamos obligados a reivindicar las luchas desarrolladas por nuestros Libertadores y Libertadoras, por tantos hombres y mujeres de nuestros pueblos que derramaron su sangre y entregaron sus vidas por la Patria. Ayer nuestros pueblos se enfrentaron al imperio español, hoy estamos enfrentados al imperio norteamericano con el mismo objetivo: la Libertad, la Independencia, la Soberanía y la Justicia Social.

Special Commemorative Documents:

Chávez por siempre–Commemorative package of articles produced by the Correo del Orinoco, spanning Chavez’s entire life and especially focused on his career in government and the achievements during his time in office. (pdf, 4.6 mb)

Special Websites Dedicated to the Memory of Hugo Chávez:

Frases de Hugo Chávez (Telesur: interactive presentation of some of the more memorable lines spoken or written by Chávez)

CHÁVEZ: 1954-2013 (Telesur: interactive presentation on the life, politics, and achievements in government of Chávez)

ÉI, Hugo Rafael Chávez Frías (Telesur: interactive presentation of many different facets of the history of Chávez)

Hugo Chávez: Elected President, 2013-2019 (Telesur: prepared after Chávez’s electoral win, not knowing he would pass on a few months after)

Venezuela: Chávez es un pueblo (Telesur)

El primer paso al cambio: 4-F de 1992 (Telesur: special presentation on Chávez’s first attempt at power)

27-F: A 23 años del Caracazo (Telesur: historical presentation on the infamous repression of the Caracas ant-austerity riots of 27 February 1989)

Bolivarian Government Archives:

The Achievements of the Bolivarian Government of Venezuela (2000-2013)–From the official website of the Ministry of Popular Power (Ministerio del Poder Popular del Despacho de la Presidencia y Seguimiento de la Gestión de Gobierno), Bolivarian Government of Venezuela–in Spanish, 29 pages, pdf, 333 kb

Plan for Government, 2013-2019 (Hugo Chávez’s plans for the 2013-2019 period)

Recommended Reports:

The Chávez Administration at 10 Years: The Economy and Social Indicators. By Mark Weisbrot, Rebecca Ray and Luis Sandoval, Center for Economic and Policy Research, February 2009. (pdf, 371 kb)

Logros y avances del Gobierno Bolivariano: Memoria y Cuenta del Presidente de la República Bolivariana de Venezuela Hugo Chávez Frías. Government of Venezuela, 2011. (Report produced for an address to the National Assembly, pdf, 3.3 mb)

Fact Sheet: Twelve Years, Twelve Advances.” By the Embassy of the Bolivarian Republic of Venezuela to the U.S. May, 2011. (pdf, 165 kb)

Facts about Venezuela – Twelve Years, Twelve Advancements.” Venezuela Solidarity.

50 Truths about Hugo Chavez and the Bolivarian Revolution,” by Salim Lamrani, Venezuela Analysis, March 9, 2013.

2011 HDR composite indices–Bolivarian Republic of Venezuela– HDI values and rank changes in the 2011 Human Development Report. (pdf, 40 kb)

Reconoció la Organización de Naciones Unidas (ONU): Venezuela es el segundo país que más creció en Índice de Desarrollo Humano[UNDP Recognizes Venezuela as having the second fastest rise in the Human Development Index],” ANTV, 2013-3-16.

Of relevance also: Obama’s Latin America Policy: Continuity Without Change. By Mark Weisbrot, Center for Economic and Policy Research, May 2011. (pdf, 207 kb)

Venezuela’s Electoral System: Gearing Up for the 2012 Presidential Elections.” Embassy of the Bolivarian Republic of Venezuela to the U.S., October 2011. (pdf, 32 kb)

Venezuela’s Economic Recovery: Is it Sustainable? By Mark Weisbrot and Jake Johnston, Center for Economic and Policy Research, September 2012. (pdf, 946 kb)

Venezuelan Economic and Social Performance Under Hugo Chávez, in Graphs,” by Jake Johnston and Sara Kozameh, Center for Economic and Policy Research, March 7, 2013.

The World’s 15 Happiest Countries: No. 5, Venezuela,” The Washington Post, based on a 2010 global Gallup poll.

The Indigenous Peoples of Venezuela and Bolivarian Socialism under Hugo Chávez:

Nohelí Pocaterra: Chávez visibilizó a los pueblos indígenas y defendió sus derechos,” Partido Socialista Unido de Venezuela, March 18, 2013:

- The symbolic remains Cacique Guicaipuro were moved to the National Pantheon.: “He who led the resistance against the invading empire”.
– Hugo Chávez felt the name of the national holiday, “Día de la Raza” (Day of the Race), was denigrating and derogatory, and he changed to Indigenous Resistance Day
– Indigenous Peoples of Venezuela were granted their own identity card which simultaneously identifies them as Venezuelan citizens and as original peoples
– He also created the Ministry of Popular Power for Indigenous Peoples, with an Indigenous representative as the spokesperson for the nation’s Indigenous Peoples
- The launch of Misión Guicaipuro (see here also).

A New Reality for Venezuela’s Indigenous Peoples,” by Domingo Sánchez P., Director, Venezuelan National Foundation for Indigenous Studies (FUNDESIN), published in Issues in Caribbean Amerindian Studies, Vol. IV, No. 2, Feb 2002 – Feb 2003–also in Spanish, “UNA NUEVA REALIDAD PARA LOS INDÍGENAS DE VENEZUELA“:

“With the adoption of the new Constitution of 1999, justice has been established, having been systematically violated not just since the ‘discovery’ and the aftermath of the dominant society’s subsequent conquest, but also since the country obtained independence from the Spanish colonial yoke in its establishment as a Republic. With the violation of the first Constitution of 1811 by the new owners of the Republic, who ruled it in order to appropriate all available arable land, the rights of Venezuela’s aboriginal peoples were totally dismissed. Their rights to live in their own lands, to maintain their cultures and customs, were completely violated and unrecognized.

“With the new Constitution of 1999, the inalienable rights of the indigenous peoples of the country have been recognized, as well as establishing the bases for an equitable development of the surviving ethnic groups in order to save their customs, culture, cosmology and medicine, and grants then the right to access the cultural goods of the wider creole society. Indigenous peoples’ habitats and knowledge are to be respected, whilst putting a stop to the depredation of their places which, for thousands of years, have been the basis for their development as human beings.”

Some called 2001, “The Year of Indigenous Venezuelans”. Andrés Cañizález of the InterPress Service (IPS), wrote: “The year 2001 is turning out to be the year of Venezuela’s indigenous peoples with the launching of a number of new laws and development projects that vindicate the rights and cultures of 28 native communities, which represent 1.3 percent of the national population of 22.3 million people. Last December, Congress ratified the International Labor Organization’s Convention 169 on Indigenous and Tribal Peoples, and expedited the Law on Demarcation and Guarantee of Habitat of Indigenous Peoples, while this month debate on the Bilingual Inter-Cultural Education Law began, indigenous congressman Guillermo Guevara told Tierramérica. All of this legislative action will reach its high point in November, when the bill on the Organic Law of Indigenous Peoples is slated for presentation before the National Assembly (Congress). In addition, several official entities have announced the implementation of development plans that respect the unique qualities of Venezuela’s native communities while confronting the poverty and exclusion of the country’s 315,000 indigenous peoples….”

A press release of 24 March, 1999, from the Indigenous Federation of Bolivar State (FIEB),  “Indigenous Peoples from 28 Tribes Hold Special Congress To Form Their Proposals for Venezuela’s New Constitution,” reported that more than 400 Indigenous delegates representing the 28 different Indigenous ethnic groups that exist in Venezuela held an extraordinary congress in March 1999 to elaborate their unified proposal for the new Venezuelan Constitution. Venezuela’s Indigenous peoples elected three representatives to participate in the Constituent Assembly. In addition to electing their representatives, Venezuela’s Indigenous peoples also met to formulate their position on a number of key issues, most notably Indigenous peoples’ rights to their traditional lands and natural resources.

For more relevant resources covering the rights of the Indigenous Peoples of Venezuela won since 1999, see The CAC Review.

See also the 2007 International Congress of the Anti-Imperialist Indigenous People of Latin America, which involved delegates from Chile, Ecuador, Peru, Mexico, Bolivia, El Salvador, Canada, Colombia, Costa Rica, Argentina, Guyana, Suriname, Paraguay, Saint Vincent and the Grenadines, Brazil, Honduras, the United States, Uruguay, Panama, Venezuela, and other countries. The Indigenous Parliament of America also held session soon after.

ARTICLES

All of these articles should be read in full, as the extracts below may not be sufficiently representative:

Chávez’s Legacy,” by Mark Weisbrot, Center for Economic and Policy Research, March 5, 2013:

…Hugo Chávez Frias…was probably more demonized than any democratically elected president in world history. But he was repeatedly re-elected by wide margins, and will be mourned not only by Venezuelans but by many Latin Americans who appreciate what he did for the region.

Chávez survived a military coup backed by Washington and oil strikes that crippled the economy but once he got control of the oil industry, his government reduced poverty by half and extreme poverty by 70 percent. Millions of people also got access to health care for the first time, and access to education also increased sharply, with college enrollment doubling and free tuition for many. Eligibility for public pensions tripled. He kept his campaign promise to share the country’s oil wealth with Venezuela’s majority, and that will be part of his legacy.

So, too will be the second independence of Latin America, and especially South America….

President Hugo Chavez: A 21st Century Renaissance Man,” by James Petras, Global Research, March 15, 2013:

…Above all Chavez speeches, drawing as much from Bolivar as from Karl Marx, created a deep, generous sense of patriotism and nationalism and a profound rejection of a prostrate elite groveling before their Washington overlord, Wall Street bankers and oil company executives. Chavez’ anti-imperial speeches resonated because he spoke in the language of the people and expanded their national consciousness to identification with Latin America, especially Cuba ’s fight against imperial interventions and wars….

…The Chavez Doctrine emphasized south-south trade and investments and diplomatic over military resolution of disputes. He upheld the Geneva Accords against colonial and imperial aggression while rejecting the imperial doctrine of ‘the war on terror’, defining western state terrorism as a pernicious equivalent to Al Qaeda terrorism….

One of the most profound and influential aspects of Chavez’ legacy is his original synthesis of three grand strands of political thought: popular Christianity, Bolivarian nationalist and regional integration and Marxist political, social and economic thought….

…In the midst of crisis, he retained all the social programs, rejected mass firings and increased social spending. The Venezuelan economy rode out of the worldwide crisis and recovered with a healthy 5.8% growth rate in 2012. In other words, Chavez demonstrated that mass impoverishment was a product of the specific capitalist ‘formula’ for recovery. He showed another, positive alternative approach to economic crisis, which taxed the rich, promoted public investments and maintained social expenditures.

…Chavez deep commitment to anti-imperialism stands in marked contrast to the capitulation of Western self-styled ‘Marxist’ intellectuals who mouthed crude justifications for their support of NATO bombing Yugoslavia and Libya, the French invasion of Mali and the Saudi-French (‘Monarcho-Socialist’) funding and arming of Islamist mercenaries against Syria. These same London, New York and Paris-based ‘intellectuals’ who patronized Chavez as a mere ‘populist’ or ‘nationalist’ and claimed he should have listened to their lectures and read their books, had crassly capitulated under the pressure of the capitalist state and mass media into supporting ‘humanitarian interventions’ (aka NATO bombing)… and justified their opportunism in the language of obscure leftists sects. Chavez confronted NATO pressures and threats, as well as the destabilizing subversion of his domestic opponents and courageously articulated the most profound and significant principles of 20th and 21st Marxism: the inviolate right to self-determination of oppressed nations and unconditional opposition to imperial wars. While Chavez spoke and acted in defense of anti-imperialist principles, many in the European and US left acquiesced in imperial wars: There were virtually no mass protests, the ‘anti-war’ movements were co-opted or moribund, the British ‘Socialist’ Workers Party defended the massive NATO bombing of Libya, the French ‘Socialists’ invaded Mali- with the support of the ‘Anti-Capitalist’ Party. Meanwhile, the ‘populist’ Chavez had articulated a far more profound and principled understanding of Marxist practice, certainly than his self-appointed overseas Marxist ‘tutors’….

No other democratic-socialist president had successfully resisted imperial destabilization campaigns – neither Jagan in Guyana , Manley in Jamaica , nor Allende in Chile . From the very outset Chavez saw the importance of creating a solid legal-political framework to facilitate executive leadership, promote popular civil society organizations and end US penetration of the state apparatus (military and police). Chavez implemented radical social impact programs that ensured the loyalty and active allegiance of popular majorities and weakened the economic levers of political power long held by the capitalist class. As a result Venezuela ’s political leaders, soldiers and officers loyal to its constitution and the popular masses crushed a bloody rightwing coup, a crippling bosses’ lockout and a US-financed referendum and proceeded to implement further radical socio-economic reforms in a prolonged process of cumulative socialization.

Chávez’s Chief Legacy: Building, with People, an Alternative Society to Capitalism,” by Marta Harnecker, MRzine, March 6, 2013:

Chávez conceived of socialism as a new collective life in which equality, freedom, and real and deep democracy reign, and in which the people plays the role of protagonist; an economic system centered on human beings, not on profits; a pluralistic, anti-consumerist culture in which the act of living takes precedence over the act of owning.

Chávez thought, like Mariátegui, that 21st-century socialism cannot be a “carbon copy” and must be a “heroic creation,” which is why he spoke of Bolivarian, Christian, Robinsonian, Amerindian socialism.

The necessity of common people’s protagonism is a recurring theme in the late Venezuelan president’s speeches and an element that distinguishes his from other proposals for democratic socialism. Participation, as protagonists, in all spheres is what allows human beings to grow and achieve self-confidence, that is to say, to develop themselves as human beings.

The World-Historical Importance of Hugo Chávez,” by Jay Moore, MRzine, March 6, 2013:

The masses make history, but particular charismatic men and women can play a pivotal role, especially when they believe in the people and mobilize the masses to take action on their own behalf. Hugo Chávez was one of those rare revolutionary leaders. He was especially important for Latin America and the Third World for taking the baton from Fidel Castro in Cuba of being a loud, fearless, and vocal opponent of Yankee imperialism. He was the extreme left of the “pink tide” in South America of new democratic governments that began to dot the continent in the early 2000s. Without his presence, most of those other leaders would certainly have moved even more to the center-left. Under him, Venezuela empowered workers and the poor in ways that no other government was doing, while most governments were gleefully beholden to the 1%ers. That’s why they — and the mainstream media who are their lapdogs — hated him.

On a world-historical scale, Chávez was of enormous significance because he and his Bolivarian Movement put revolutionary socialism back onto the global agenda….

Farewell Comrade Chávez,” by Fred Magdoff, MRzine, March 6, 2013:

But perhaps the greatest achievement was the constant effort to devolve power to people at the local level….

Those unfamiliar with Venezuela will be surprised by that last sentence because there were many aspects of a top-down way of operating. But the creation of community councils throughout the country empowered people to make decisions about the needs of their communities and they were then provided with the resources needed to improve their lives. Through these thirty thousand community councils and the literally thousands of worker cooperatives formed, a lot has been happening through local initiative and an energized population.

Hugo Chavez and Me: Challenging the Washington Consensus,” by Tariq Ali, CounterPunch, March 7, 2013:

The Bolívarians, as Chávez’s supporters were known, offered a political programme that challenged the Washington consensus: neo-liberalism at home and wars abroad. This was the prime reason for the vilification of Chávez that is sure to continue long after his death.

Politicians like him had become unacceptable. What he loathed most was the contemptuous indifference of mainstream politicians in South America towards their own people. The Venezuelan elite is notoriously racist. They regarded the elected president of their country as uncouth and uncivilised, a zambo of mixed African and indigenous blood who could not be trusted. His supporters were portrayed on private TV networks as monkeys. Colin Powell had to publicly reprimand the US embassy in Caracas for hosting a party where Chávez was portrayed as a gorilla….

The image of Chávez most popular in the west was that of an oppressive caudillo. Had this been true I would wish for more of them. The Bolívarian constitution, opposed by the Venezuelan opposition, its newspapers and TV channels and the local CNN, plus western supporters, was approved by a large majority of the population. It is the only constitution in the world that affords the possibility of removing an elected president from office via a referendum based on collecting sufficient signatures. Consistent only in their hatred for Chávez, the opposition tried to use this mechanism in 2004 to remove him. Regardless of the fact that many of the signatures were those of dead people, the Venezuelan government decided to accept the challenge.

Ah, Chavez No Se Va! Anti-imperialist, Socialist and Immortal Latino-American,” by Charles Muntaner, Joan Benach, Maria Paez Victor, CounterPunch, March 7, 2013:

Economically, Chavez managed to increase the minimum wage, pensions and remunerate domestic work, among other policies, all of which resulted in a significant reduction in poverty and income inequality. In contrast to promoting consumerism among the middle classes (for example, in the aspiration of a car for everyone), Chavez promoted socialist alternatives that went well beyond European social democracy. For example, non-capitalist areas were developed, with “social production companies”, co-management and co-operatives, and various nationalizations.

Politically, Chavez managed to bring together nationalist and socialist groups in the United Socialist Party of Venezuela (PSUV), and maintain a balance of power that brought him more than 10 electoral victories. Social programs, the famous “Missiones”, brought primary care to the hills of Caracas and the majority of people in Venezuela. The Mission Mercal allowed the working classes to access food of higher quality, despite occasional shortages. The most exploited social classes had access to education, among which were programs that reversed the social origin of the “medical establishment” to make it more responsive to the needs of the majority population. The communal councils allowed affected communities to have direct control over the management of social services, including public health services, water, property, education, sport, prevention and housing, among others….

Culturally, Chavez dared to break the barriers that University classism is imposing increasingly in the North….His ability to communicate with his people, the working classes of Venezuela, and by extension of Latin America and the world, has no match. He could talk about Meszaros, Marx and Chomsky with the same lack of pretension, simplicity and clarity with which he spoke about baseball or sang a ranchera song by Ali Primera. Making no effort, he was able to break the barriers of elitism that make culture a commodified good available to the few who have high degrees. There was not in him an iota of neocolonial inferiority complex, admiration for Anglo-Saxon culture, or identification with his historical oppressors. Chavez did not care what the imperialist North thought of him. That was one reason why the media attacked him with a frenetic fervor.

The Chavez Legacy: The Revolution Within the Revolution Will Continue,” by Kevin Zeese and Dr. Margaret Flowers, CounterPunch, March 6, 2013:

They call it the “revolution within the revolution.” Venezuelan democracy and economic transformation are bigger than Chávez. Chávez opened a door to achieve the people’s goals: literacy programs in the barrios, more people attending college, universal access to health care, as well as worker-owned businesses and community councils where people make decisions for themselves. Change came through decades of struggle leading to the election of Chávez in 1998, a new constitution and ongoing work to make that constitution a reality….

The struggle for democracy brought an understanding by the people that change only comes if they create it. The pre- Chávez era is seen as a pseudo Democracy, managed for the benefit of the oligarchs. The people viewed Chávez as a door that was opened for them to create transformational change. He was able to pass laws that aided them in their work for real democracy and better conditions. And Chávez knew that if the people did not stand with him, the oligarchs could remove him from power as they did for two days in 2002.

With this new understanding and the constitution as a tool, Chávez and the people have continued to progress in the work to rebuild Venezuela based on participatory democracy and freedom from US interference. Chávez refers to the new system as “21st century socialism.” It is very much an incomplete work in progress, but already there is a measurable difference….

Chávez Election Not So Different from the Rest of South America,” by Mark Weisbrot, Center for Economic and Policy Research, October 9, 2012:

Here is Lula last month: “A victory for Chávez (in the upcoming election) is not just a victory for the people of Venezuela but also a victory for all the people of Latin America . . . this victory will strike another blow against imperialism.” The other left presidents have the same views of Chávez.

The Bush administration pursued a strategy of trying to isolate Venezuela from its neighbors, and ended up isolating itself. President Obama promised in the 2009 Summit of the Americas to pursue a different course; but he didn’t, and at the 2012 Summit he was as isolated as his predecessor.

Although the media has been dominated by stories of Venezuela’s impending economic collapse for more than a decade, it hasn’t happened and is not likely to happen. After recovering from a recession that began in 2009, during the world economic crisis, the Venezuelan economy has been growing for two-and-a-half years now and inflation has fallen sharply while growth has accelerated. The country has a sizeable trade surplus. Its public debt is relatively low and so is its debt service burden. It has plenty of room to borrow foreign currency (it has borrowed $36 billion from China, mostly at very low interest rates), and can borrow domestically as well at low or negative real interest rates. So even if oil prices were to crash temporarily (as in 2008-2009), there would be no need for austerity or recession. And hardly anyone is predicting a long-term collapse of oil prices.

U.S. and Canada Isolated as Latin American Leaders Acknowledge Chávez’s Regional Leadership,” by Sara Kozameh, Center for Economic and Policy Research, March 6, 2013:

Unsurprisingly, Obama differed in tone from his peers to the south, offering no condolences and focusing instead on ushering in a “new chapter in [Venezuelan] history” and pushing the hackneyed talking point that “the United States remains committed to policies that promote the democratic principles, the rule of law, and respect for human rights” as if there were a significant deficit of any of these things in Venezuela. It is conspicuous that unlike other world leaders, Obama did not express condolences. This will almost certainly not go unnoticed in Venezuela or Latin America, more widely….

…But these statements from the hemispheric north do not represent the general regional attitude towards Chávez’s death. The heartfelt acknowledgement of Hugo Chávez’s regional integration agenda and leadership qualities expressed by the overwhelming majority of the leaders in the Americas, and not only by its left-leaning leaders, make clear the impact that Chávez has had on the region. Yesterday, Latin America voiced a clear affirmation that, even in the absence of Chávez, it would continue to work together to forge ahead with the ideals of Latin American unity and independence that have already become a reality.

Hugo Chavez’ legacy in Haiti and Latin America,” by Kim Ives, Haiti Liberté, March 17, 2013:

Tens of thousands of Haitians spontaneously poured into the streets of Port-au-Prince on the morning of Mar. 12, 2007. President Hugo Chavez had just arrived in Haiti all but unannounced, and a multitude, shrieking and singing with glee, joined him in jogging alongside the motorcade of Haiti’s then President René Préval on its way to the National Palace (later destroyed in the 2010 earthquake).

There, Chavez announced that Venezuela would help Haiti by building power stations, expanding electricity networks, improving airports, supplying garbage trucks, and supporting widely-deployed Cuban medical teams. But the centerpiece of the gifts Chavez brought Haiti was 14,000 barrels of oil a day, a Godsend in a country that has been plagued by blackouts and power shortages for decades.

Statement From Former U.S. President Jimmy Carter on the Death of Hugo Chavez,” The Carter Center, March 5, 2013:

President Chávez will be remembered for his bold assertion of autonomy and independence for Latin American governments and for his formidable communication skills and personal connection with supporters in his country and abroad to whom he gave hope and empowerment. During his 14-year tenure, Chávez joined other leaders in Latin America and the Caribbean to create new forms of integration. Venezuelan poverty rates were cut in half, and millions received identification documents for the first time allowing them to participate more effectively in their country’s economic and political life.

Por qué no entendemos a Chávez,” Pascual Serrano, Público, 2012-10-6:

Trans: As for Venezuela, today it is the number two Latin American country to receive youths from Spain, who go there in search of employment. Last year, the Venezuela government delivered 146,022 homes to the poorest sectors of the society. Employment and housing, two of the primary problems which surveys signal as the top priorities for Spaniards….The economic crisis [in Spain], in the same way as it put the lie to our false narrative of having a buoyant economy, has lifted the veil on Venezuela and the government of Hugo Chávez. Thus it now appears that when we were being told of Venezuelan exiles fleeing for Miami, our youths were fleeing to Venezuela in search of employment.

En cuanto a Venezuela, es hoy el segundo país latinoamericano en recibir jóvenes españoles que encuentran allí trabajo y su gobierno entregó el pasado año 146.022 viviendas a los sectores más humildes. Trabajo y vivienda, dos de los principales problemas que las encuestas señalan como prioritarios para los españoles, resulta que se están afrontando mejor en el país que nuestra banca -tan necesitada de rescate- decía que presentaba riesgos en su situación económica.

La crisis económica, del mismo modo que ha mostrado la falsedad del discurso de nuestra boyante economía, ha permitido correr el velo de gran parte de las mentiras en torno a Venezuela y el gobierno de Hugo Chávez. Por eso ahora resulta que mientras nos anunciaban exiliados venezolanos que decían que huían a Miami, nuestros jóvenes deben buscar empleo en Venezuela.

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