Regarding Hugo Chavez, I wrote this a few years ago. http://rgdinmalaysia.xanga.com/674304193/why-i-admire-hugo-chavez-and-evo-morales/
I still feel the same way and have nothing to add. I think he was a great man mostly.
However, I have a few more random thoughts about Chavez upon his recent passing.
1.) The poverty rate was 67% when he took office in Venezuela. It is now 27%.
2.) You can tell how effective a leader was by who his enemies are. The amount of negative articles in the last few days in all the big corporate newspapers, magazines, etc. mostly focusing on his sometimes eccentric behavior and what other world leaders he befriended are fluff and nonsense.
3.) The criticism he was overfriendly with dictators around the world….When the most powerful country in the world is out to get you, very few places you can turn. Nelson Mandela gave a speech shortly after being released from prison where he praised and thanked Quaddafi and other dictators as well - They supported the ANC's struggle when the USA didn't. I’m willing to give a partial pass on human rights to a government trying to improve the majority of its citizen’s life if the CIA is constantly trying to destabilize that government. Feel the same way about Cuba.
4.) His anti-Americanism – in 2002 the US conspired to have a coup in Venezuela. It was unsuccessful. Of course, if it was the 1950’s or even the 1980’s they would have just had him killed. His disgust with America based on his own history and the history of Latin America is understandable.
5.) His closing down of TV stations – They weren’t just broadcasting opposition positions, they were calling for the overthrow of the government. Imagine if Fox News called for a coup against Obama every day threatening him with physical bodily harm on the air.
6.) Americans and Westerners in general don’t understand the role of the wealthy in a country like Venezuela. In the US wealthy folks can hire lobbyists, wine and dine senators and congressman, give them money or fund their opposition but in 2013 there is a limit to what they can do. In a country like Venezuela, they are literally a government unto themselves controlling elements of the military and using force when they see fit. They are basically gangsters. The left-over overlords of the type of colonialism realpolitik practiced by the USA post World War II.
7.) The high crime rate in Venezuela – In 2009, the Chavez government created a separate security force, the Bolivian National Police. They have not been deployed in all of Venezuela but the areas they have been have seen a reduction in crime. Chavez died before he could extend the areas they’ve been deployed.
8.) Chavez and the Jews – Really a peripheral issue not helped by Chavez’s blunt language. However, to me it is the duty of any government that considers itself revolutionary in origin and “for the people” to help the Palestinians if they can. Israel is the last bastion of colonialism – an evil race based apartheid state.
9.) Did Venezuela improve in the years he was in office? Well, the middle class has more than doubled, poverty has dropped substantially, and interestingly enough more Venezuelans are getting college degrees now than were before his term in office.
10.) His legacy – Chavez’s election victories paved the way for likeminded administrations in Brazil, Bolivia etc. and that’s a good thing for the poor and lower income working people bad for oligarchs and the 1% percent.
And it’s been said many times but idiots still use this line of attack – No, Chavez was not a dictator. He was elected four times in elections overseen by independent international monitors such as the UN and the Carter Center. He was a more legitimate leader than George Bush who lost the popular vote in 2000.
If I’ve got any criticism of Chavez it was in his tone – played well in Caracas maybe but outside of the country he sometimes looked like a blustering fool. It would have helped him to tone it down a bit but anyway that’s who he was warts and all.
I’ll just say this – I have a relative who works for an international oil company and had two Venezuelan colleagues - One hated Chavez and the other loved Chavez. Guess which one was from a wealthy old money landowning family and which one was from a poor family and had received assistance to finish his college education?