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Hugo Chavez

John Dolva

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Editorial: Corporate media's Chavez coverage shows contempt for poor and democracy

Tuesday, March 12, 2013


Venezuelans accompany Hugo Chavez's coffin on the streets of Caracas, March 6.

The huge, genuine and spontaneous outpouring of grief that has enveloped Venezuela in the days since Hugo Chavez passed away on March 5 show that the late Venezuelan president was no ordinary politician.

Hundreds of thousands of people flooded the streets to accompany Chavez's coffin on its way from the hospital where he died to the military academy where his body is currently lying in state, clad in the red that symbolises the Bolivarian revolution and chanting “the people united will never be defeated”.

By March 7, more than 2 million people had endured long queues to view the body — prompting Venezuelan authorities to announce the body will remain there for a further a week to allow more people to pay their respects.

Outside of Venezuela, people have also gathered to remember Chavez. Several Latin American nations announced official periods of mourning and Latin American presidents paid homage to a president who pushed tirelessly for regional integration and unity to combat US power and exploitation.

It is inconceivable that the passing of any Australian leader could evoke this kind of response. Whereas our mainstream politicians serve powerful corporate interests, Chavez was a president of, by and for his country's poor majority.

Chavez was “their” president — not ruling above them, but encouraging them to participate directly in their country's affairs. “The only way to overcome poverty,” Chavez famously said, “is to give power to the poor”.

Venezuela Analysis images: Veneuelans mourns

Not that you would know this from the mainstream media's coverage. If you swallowed the constant reporting of Chavez as a “military strongman”, “autocrat”, or even outright “dictator”, you would be at a loss to explain this heartfelt response. You could only assume millions of people had lost their minds.

But Chavez was possibly the most significant political figure to arise so far in the 21st century.

The mass movement he led rejected the corrupt two-party fake democracy and the Western-imposed neoliberal policies crippling Venezuela's people. And it did so in the aftermath of the collapse of the Soviet Union, when we were told history had “ended” and conservatives and social democrats were repeating around the world the same mantra: “There is no alternative.”

Chavez not only showed that an alternative was possible, but he put revolution back on the agenda. He showed the way to win change was not simply winning an election, but empowering and mobilising ordinary people to confront the rich elite and build their own counter power.

Oligarchs in Venezuela and Washington, who saw this empowerment of the poor as a threat to their interests, organised a coup that toppled Chavez on April 11, 2002.

But they were defeated when the poor mobilised to smash the coup junta — who installed the head of the chamber of commerce as the new president — and brought Chavez back on April 13.

All the changes in Latin America especially the broader moves towards integration and unity would be unthinkable without the decisive and unprecedented blow to US imperialism delivered by the victorious counter-coup.

Contrary to the “dictator” slurs, Chavez was elected in free and fair elections four times, and won a recall referendum in 2004. Since 1998, his political movement has won 15 elections.

Despite the media reporting that Chavez named Vice President Nicolas Maduro his “successor”, all Chavez did was indicate his support for Maduro to be the candidate of the United Socialist Party of Venezuela (PSUV) if Chavez was unable to serve out his term. Elections will occur in the coming weeks and, once again, the Venezuelan people will decide.

Not only has not a single private media outlet been shut down (RCTV, the channel allegedly “shut down” by Chavez in 2007, is still broadcasting), but community media has exploded. There are hundreds of new radio stations in the poor barrios. Free speech, far from being restricted, has been extended.

TThe results speak for themselves. While capitalism's crisis is being taken out on ordinary people across Europe, Chavez pushed alternatives to the barbarism of the capitalist system and promoted a democratic, humanist alternative he labelled “socialism of the 21st century”.

While capitalism's crisis has left half of Spain's youth unemployed, Venezuela, by rejecting the neoliberal dictates of Western governments and financial institutions, has experienced sustained economic growth. Poverty has halved since 2004 and extreme poverty dropped by 70%, the Center For Economic and Policy Research said in an October 3 report last year.

Chavez was not perfect, nor is the Venezuelan revolution. A revolution is a process, and Venezuela's has a long way to go to overcome the deep problems inherited from the past.

We do not have to agree with every statement or policy of the government to acknowledge the impressive gains that have been made.

One thing is certain — the revolution is not over. Chavez was re-elected with more than 8 million votes last October with the draft “Socialist Plan for the Nation 2013-19” as his platform. This detailed, 39-page plan has the goal of deepening the path to socialism and revolutionary democracy.

It has since been debated at mass meetings across Venezuela, with hundreds of amendments proposed. This document is the program for the next phase of social transformation.

Ultimately, the media coverage is insulting to Venezuela's people who repeatedly elected Chavez and who risked their lives (with more than 60 people killed) to defeat the US-backed coup.

It also shows incredible disrespect for democracy. It is repeatedly implied Chavez “bought” the support of the poor with policies that have improved their lives. But all Chavez did was promise his polices would help them and then, when elected, actually did what he said.

This might seem odd to us, as our capitalist politicians do the exact opposite, but the point of democracy is to respect the people’s will.

What is more, the pro-poor social mission are not just “gifts from above” they are directly administered and under the control of poor communities themselves.

But what does it matter to some corporate media hack in a rich country that, thanks to the redistribution of Venezuela's oil wealth, illiteracy has been eradicated, millions of people won access to health care and dignified housing, or that poor farmers have finally won some land? Not a damned thing.

But to Venezuela's poor it is everything, and that is why they are mourning the first president they ever saw as “theirs”, while expressing a determination to keep advancing towards a society based on genuine equality and democracy.

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Edited by John Dolva
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Yes, I agree.

The point that I'm going to try to make here (apart from having had my own period of waiting till posting on this now) is going to be found in posts that look further into Hugo Chavez and how the media has and is continuing to distort the truth about this working class Hero. Through it one can get a glimpse of how the media is distorting events throughout the world, and people are lapping it up, probably largely because most people get their perception of the reality of what goes on around the world from the main corporate media outlets acting, as one expects, in the interest of Western Imperalism.

Hugo was an opponent of Western Imperalism.

Much depends on how this plays out in a wide view of events that are to come.

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Hugo Chavez' legacy in Haiti and Latin America


Hugo Chavez during his one visit to Haiti, March 2007

By Kim Ives, published in Haiti Liberte weekly, edition of March 6, 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.

The oil was part of a PetroCaribe deal which Venezuela had signed with Haiti a year before. Haiti had only to pay 60% for the oil it received, while the remaining 40% could be paid over the course of 25 years at 1% interest. Under similar PetroCaribe deals, Venezuela now provides more than 250,000 barrels a day at sharply discounted prices to 17 Central American and Caribbean countries, including Haiti, Guatemala, Honduras, Jamaica, Cuba, Nicaragua, and the Dominican Republic.

The cost of the program is estimated at some $5 billion annually. But the benefits to, and gratitude from, PetroCaribe recipients are huge, particularly during the on-going global economic crisis. In short, Caracas is underwriting the stability and energy security of most economies in the Caribbean and Central America, at the same time challenging, for the first time in over a century, U.S. hegemony in its own “backyard.”

Washington’s alarm over and hostility to PetroCaribe is layed bare in secret diplomatic cables obtained by the media organization WikiLeaks. Then U.S. Ambassador to Haiti Janet Sanderson rebuked Préval for “giving Chavez a platform to spout anti-American slogans” during his 2007 visit, said one cable cited in an article which debuted in June 2011 a WikiLeaks-based series produced by Haïti Liberté and The Nation.

Reviewing all 250,000 secret U.S. diplomatic cables which were later released, one realizes that Sanderson wasn’t the only U.S. diplomat wringing her hands about PetroCaribe.

“It is remarkable that in this current contest we are being outspent by two impoverished countries: Cuba and Venezuela,” noted U.S. Ambassador to Uruguay Frank Baxter in a 2007 cable released by Wikileaks. “We offer a small Fulbright program; they offer a thousand medical scholarships. We offer a half dozen brief IV programs to ‘future leaders’; they offer thousands of eye operations to poor people. We offer complex free trade agreements someday; they offer oil at favorable rates today. Perhaps we should not be surprised that Chavez is winning friends and influencing people at our expense.”

We can now expect the Washington’s “contest” with Venezuela to escalate dramatically as it attempts to take advantage of the Bolivarian regime’s vulnerability during the transition of power. Already Vice President Nicolas Maduro, whom Chavez asked Venezuelans to make his successor, has sounded the alarm. "We have no doubt that commander Chavez was attacked with this illness," Maduro said on Mar. 5, repeating a suspicion voiced by Chavez himself that Washington was somehow responsible for the fatal cancer he contracted. "The old enemies of our fatherland looked for a way to harm his health."

Maduro also announced on national television on Mar. 5 “that a U.S. Embassy attache was being expelled for meeting with military officers and planning to destabilize the country,” the AP reported. A U.S. Air Force attaché was also expelled.

In short, just as the imperative to secure oil has driven the U.S. to multiple wars, coups, and intrigues in the Mideast over the past 60 years, it is now driving the U.S. toward a major new confrontation in Latin America. With Chavez’s death, Washington sees a long awaited opportunity to roll back the Bolivarian Revolution and programs like PetroCaribe. In recent years, Chavez has led Venezuela to nationalize dozens of foreign-owned undertakings, including oil projects run by Exxon Mobil, Texaco Chevron, and other large North American corporations. The future of the hydrocarbon resources in Venezuela’s Maracaibo Basin and Orinoco Belt, recently declared to be the world’s largest, will soon reveal itself to be the central economic and political issue, and hottest flashpoint, in the hemisphere.

In the case of Haiti, Hugo Chavez often said that PetroCaribe and other aid was given “to repay the historic debt that Venezuela owes the Haitian people.” Haiti was the first nation of Latin America, gaining its independence in 1804. In the 19th century’s first example of international solidarity, Haitian revolutionary leaders like Jean-Jacques Dessalines and Alexandre Pétion provided Francisco de Miranda and Simon Bolivar, South America’s “Great Liberator,” with guns, ships, and printing presses to carry out the anti-colonial struggle on the continent.

And this was the dream that inspired Hugo Chavez: a modern Bolivarian revolution sweeping South America, spreading independence from Washington and growing “21st century socialism.” PetroCaribe was Chavez’s flagship in that “contest,” as Ambassador Baxter called it.

Ironically, it was former Haitian president Jean-Bertrand Aristide who first foiled U.S. election engineering in Latin America in December 1990, but his electoral victory was cut short by a September 1991 coup. Hugo Chavez was the next Latin American leader to successfully carry out a political revolution at the polls in 1998. His people defeated the U.S.-backed coup that tried to unseat him in April 2002. Due to his strategic acumen, his popular support, and the goodwill created with PetroCaribe, Chavez’s prestige grew in Venezuela and around the world during his 14 years in power up until his death today, which will bring a huge tide of mourning across Latin America.

The eulogies will be many, but former U.S. Attorney General Ramsey Clark, who personally knew and worked with Chavez, made a prescient observation in January that stands out: “In my opinion, history will judge the contributions of Hugo Chavez to Latin American as greater than those of Bolivar.”

Related articles:

* On the Legacy of Hugo Chávez, by Greg Grandin, The Nation, March 5, 2013, reprinted on Venezuela Analysis

* Hugo Chavez, undefeated, by Derrick O'Keefe, Rabble.ca, March 5, 2013

* Exposing Five Key Media Myths about Chavez’s Health and Swearing-in, by Ewan Robertson and Tamara Pearson, Venezuelanalysis.com, January 8th 2013

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