Millennium Post

The rise and rise of Hugo Chavez

When an ailing, cancer-strickenHugo Chavez, the 58-year-old Venezuelan presidential incumbent, was returned to power by the South American country’s masses for a record fourth time on 7 October, 2012, the course of history was forever changed. Venezuelans, it became extremely clear, wanted Chavez to continue, loved as he is by the overwhelming majority of the population. Chavez — the undisputed boss of the Latin American Left, steering openly against the neoliberal tide not just Venezuela, but a huge chunk of the South American political wheel, along with Cuba’s Fidel and Raul Castro, Bolivia’s Evo Morales, Brazil’s Lula de Silva, among others — had handed over a transparent defeat to his opponent, the right-wing business tycoon Henrique Capriles Radonski, by a substantial margin: Chavez got 55.41 per cent of the votes, while Capriles received about 44.24 per cent, with an 80 per cent voter turn out.

Perhaps the most vilified and lied about political figure in contemporary history, Hugo Chavez’s rise and rise and mind-bogglingly efficient and egalitarian governance of Venezuela has laid the seeds of what the son of the soil himself calls ‘Socialism of the Twenty-first Century.’ Since 1999, when Chavez swept to power after defeating Henrinque Salas Romer, a Yale University-educated economist representing the moneyed elites of Venezuela and the vested western interests in the largest oil exporting nation in the world, a socio-economic revolution has been occurring in the country, that has now spawned similar left-wing, pro-people governments in neighbouring countries such as Bolivia, Argentina, Ecuador, etc., unfairly deemed ‘populist’ in the Chavez-bashing western media, the smear-campaign spearheaded by none other than
The New York Times
itself. However, the ‘transformation of Latin America’,  as observed by the Guardian journalist Seumas Milne, ‘is one of the decisive changes reshaping the global order’ and Hugo Chavez is undoubtedly the architect of the Latin American revolution, also known as the Bolivarian revolution, after the famous 19th century revolutionary leader and Chavez’s personal hero, Simon Bolivar.

Beyond the negative propaganda and the acid rain of malignancy that have been showered on Hugo Chavez, the Venezuelan President’s staggering achievements speak for themselves. This include nationalisation of several crucial industries, particularly oil; redistribution of wealth and power; investing in free education from daycare to the university level; free healthcare and importing of thousands of doctors from Cuba in return for cheap oil to the US-embargo stricken Caribbean country; redistribution of agricultural land and restructuring of other sickly industries to gradually lift the burden of revenue generation from just oil exports; establishment of social security and pension systems for the retired and elderly; amongst a string of others.
Chavez, along with his loyal political allies and followers, has singlehandedly transformed the fabric of Venezuelan socio-political structure, much to the chagrin of the US petrochemical companies and other neo-imperial, neo-liberal governments that had hitherto counted on Venezuela to be the pawn of their greedy machinations.

What Chavez has decisively demonstrated is that there are definite alternatives to Western capitalism as economic models for the 21st century, something that the financially and morally grieving European Union could take a lesson or two from. Despite the claims that Chavez has been squandering the money earned from the Venezuelan oil reserves, the opposite is in fact true. Chavez has not only rerouted parts of the oil earnings to the people of Venezuela, by investing in the infrastructure and creating a strong welfare state, but the president has been slowly strengthening allied industries and also ties with fellow Latin American countries to emerge as a redoubtable power bloc on their own. Much has been spoken about in the academic and policy circles about the ‘South-South’ cooperation, and while the emerging economies of the BRICS (Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa) get all the positive attention in the world media reviews, Venezuela, shrouded behind a massive smokescreen of misinformation and media disparagement, has been quietly marching ahead with a four per cent growth rate annually and sharply reducing the poverty and inequality level within just the last 14 years of Chavez’ rule.

Perhaps the most evident support for Chavez within Venezuela was displayed when the 2002 US-backed military coup against Chavez failed dramatically, and the anti-people elites of Venezuela, along with their American string-masters, were left as baffled and befuddled as the observers of exit polls of the elections of 1999.
The coup, led by the business tycoon Pedro Carmona, lasted only two days, as people rushed to the streets and demanded that their beloved and democratically elected President be returned to power. More than a decade later, the latest 7 October victory for Chavez is not only a reiteration of his immense contribution to the reengineering of the Venezuelan politics and economy, but also the reinforcement of faith in the processes and functioning of a real democracy. (IPA)
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