Politics Magazine

Why Chavez Will Be Missed

Posted on the 06 March 2013 by Thepoliticalidealist @JackDarrant

Hugo Chavez, the President of Venezuela, died of cancer yesterday. The nation has entered a week of mourning,  and the United States just about suppressed its glee. Though some would describe him as a “socialist hero”, the South American underdog who led the people in standing up to big business and alleged US imperialism, Chavez leaves a record that was far from spotless. I struggled with this fine balance in a post written last year:

Under Chavez, the state has rolled
out social investment programmes,
free healthcare, upgraded schools
and more, funded by oil revenues
(London buses largely run on fuel
imported from them, after a deal
between Chavez himself and the
Mayor). The radical administration
has had to endure a hostile world
press, but some of the criticism is
justified. The nationalisation of a
number of sectors of the economy,
for example, has damaged foreign
investment, because TNCs know
that their factories will probably be
seized as soon as they open.
Additionally, queues outside
supermarkets have become
commonplace after they became a
state monopoly. Often, public
ownership of some sectors of the
economy can be beneficial, but it
doesn’t have any chance of working
under amateurish governance as
we’ve seen here (besides, who ever
could have seen a state monopoly
of supermarkets as a good idea?).
But another thing that Chavez has
going for him is that he is a
democrat, which has previously
been a rarity over there. Remember
when the US backed coup was
launched to reverse his economic
reforms? The people were having
none of it, and within days Chavez
was back in office. He knows full
well that democratic principles can
work against him as well as for
His ideals are sound ones: he
understands social responsibility
and he understands aspiration. He
has achieved so much improving
the prospects of the children of
the slums (and the slums are a
whole new story). I can easily say
that, overall, Chavez’s 14 years in
office have been beneficial. But
while it is hugely entertaining to
watch multinational firms being onI
the receiving end of the blackmail
and bullying for once, the
government is guilty of economic
mismanagement. To conclude, its
heart is in the right place, but it
has been crude in implementing its

Further to this, Hugo Chavez’s anti-American stance led him into distasteful friendships with dictators such as those of Libya (like Tony Blair) and North Korea. Also, there are alleged breaches of human rights that have taken place under his government (I wonder how this compares with Guantanamo Bay). I shall leave it to the better informed to decide if his government’s human rights record is significantly worse than those of the Blair-Bush alliance.

However, with South America it is often a matter of relativity. I mentioned the slums in my article extract: Venezuela had such a divided society that the slums, which housed a large percentage of the population, were ignored by pubic service providers and seen as a playground by the military. Indeed, this ignoring was so literal that these slums just didn’t exist on maps. This was highly symbolic of the value of the unwashed masses to the dictators.

On balance, the world has lost a valuable, if flawed, radical. Our minds must now turn to the matter of whether the bad statist and the sound socialist reforms will survive without a big personality like Chavez to push them through. I’m not so optimistic today.

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